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 56.

    @33 Rebecca Riot
    In 1976, as an RAF serviceman, when I was not on shift I was fighting forest fires in Hampshire in the big drought. In this year's floods, who where filling sandbags and rescuing people from flooded homes? The army and navy lads. Unlike WW2, most present wars are short lived and are fought with the forces available at the outbreak, so no time to recruit if short handed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I was wondering when the sabre-rattlers would raise their heads, but theirs will be under the parapet, not above.Stop it Breedlove ,and Dannatt. Stop this rediculous spouting. We do not want or Armies being 'mobalised'. Act your age, and forget the past.This is 2014, not some bygone era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I'd sooner see money spent on training and equipping troops (the most professional in the world btw) who can be deployed in numerous useful ways from delivering humanitarian aid, security for the Olympics, protecting our borders, anti piracy, trafficking and narcotics, civil disaster response and yes even armed force when necessary, than a single unusable nuclear missile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    we have nukes and high tech weapons (e.g. drones).
    no need to put soldiers lives and families at risk.
    invest in technology to reduce forces numbers

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Our Ministry of Attack needs to be disbanded not given more toys to throw at other people.

    These elites really don't get it. The actual people, you know, the normal ones who actually fight and are affected by conflict are sick of wars and militaristic nonsense. It's the same in all countries, only our leaders are intent on warring because they want to have a more prominent place in history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    We need to invest in education, not in soldiers and weapons that will never be needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    3000 troops huh? And the the Russina army is...ehm.....1.8 million.

    Planning to fight the Russians? You need more men.
    Not planning to fight the Russians? You dont need 3000 more "useless mouths"

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    But didn't the government make a lot of trained troops redundant?????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    It is time to be honest to ourselves, we are no longer a world military power.

    America knows this and Russia knows this too, if we could not stop Assad then how can we stop Russia.

    Lets leave other countries to their problems and worry about stabilizing our own economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    It's true we don't know what will happen in the world but we can't afford to just spend money we don't have on defence just in case. Besides after so long since WW2 it is now not acceptable to still base troops in Germany. Relieved to note that that the American Supreme allied commander in Europe is called Breedlove and not Strangelove.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I fail to see how 3000 more personnel in the armed forces would do anything but put a smile on the face of Russia. As for our nuclear deterent does anyone really think it would be used.

    Putin couldn't give a hoot in hell who has what so lets stop kidding ourselves that we are some kind of super power. Russia will do what Russia will do and who will stop her?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    8. Wandering_King
    No they wouldn't and if they did they wouldn't care..! Why is this our problem again... I can see the headlines now "pensioners freeze to death because gas prices soar!!"
    Its our problem because the damned gas comes across the Ukraine! Putins #1 weapon is turning off Europes gas!!!! He personally profits from the rise in prices too so it really rather suits him to do this

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Rather than sending our troops and secret agents all over the world to stir up local conflicts, why don't we deal with countries via the front door, and just talk?

    Iraq was the final big military expedition of the West. 600,000 civilians murdered on our watch.

    No more thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Whilst defence secretaries focus on modern warfare, with terms like 'asymmetrical war', what Putin has showed us is that numbers matter. Even if you don't use them. A few UAV's might indeed be useful to defend against insurgents but they are not going to help you make the same statement as a hundred thousand men on the border.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The man's a fool - uk is no longer a force to reckon with, a good thing.
    This country has many ills to address, besides 'post'-colonial trouble-making.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The British Empire has long gone - we are not one of the 'Big Boys' any more so we don't need a huge military.

    There are more important things to spend our limited resources on.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    " issues,

    1st Cameron/Osbournes negligent army cuts based upon not seeing any "threat over the horizon", Since Georgia, Ukraine has long been that threat reality.

    2nd, USA/west relatively bankrupted & destroyed USSR via unaffordable arms race, now the boot is on the other foot, huge western military cuts needed for debts but now presure to reverse planned cuts -

    What goes around!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    80% of the entire population of Crimea voted to join Russia. (97% of those who voted)
    Up until the break up of the USSR, Ukraine had never existed as a state at any point in history.

    The east of Ukraine had previously been part of Russia, and the west part of Romania/Poland.
    Perhaps it would be better if this artifical construct re-partitioned.


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