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26 Jan, 2024 08:47

UK needs bigger military – US Navy chief

Budget cuts have resulted in the British Army’s numbers falling to levels not seen since the 1700s
UK needs bigger military – US Navy chief

The UK should reassess the size of its armed forces, US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has said. During a visit to the Royal United Services Institute in London on Thursday, the official pointed to situations the US and its allies see as threats, including the escalation in the Middle East, as well as the policies of Russia and China.

Asked if the US is concerned whether Britain’s army has become too small, Del Toro replied: “I think it’s important for the United Kingdom to reassess where they are today, given the threats that exist today.”

In his speech on Thursday, he argued that amid “near-term threats to the UK and the US,” investments in the Royal Navy are “significantly important,” noting that the US has “continued to make significant investments in national security,” even amid economic challenges. Del Toro claimed that the threats include the escalating crisis in the Middle East, Yemen, Iran, China, and Russia.

Asked whether US and UK operations in the Middle East – currently a naval and bombing operation against Yemen’s Houthis – could widen to include Iran, Del Toro said, “nothing is off the table.”

A shortage of sailors forced the Royal Navy to decommission two of their frigates, the HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll, earlier this month, and the overall army numbers are reaching levels not seen since the 18th century.

This comes one day after the head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, made a speech warning the public to be prepared for conscription in case of war with Russia. Speaking at a military conference in London, the general pointed to Sweden’s reintroduction of national service as an example and warned that “as the prewar generation we must similarly prepare – and that is a whole-of-nation undertaking.”

Currently, the UK’s regular army numbers are just above 74,000, of which 20,000 will take part in NATO’s largest military exercises in decades – Steadfast Defender 2024; 90,000 troops from the bloc’s 31 member states, as well as Sweden, will participate in the war games across Europe.

Moscow has expressed concerns about NATO’s expansion towards its borders, stating that it perceives the military bloc as a threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited Kiev’s declared intention to join NATO as one of the key reasons for the Ukraine conflict.