Boris told to reverse defence cuts as army head says UK must be ready to fight and win

27 June 2022, 22:46 | Updated: 27 June 2022, 23:25

Boris Johnson has been told to reverse cuts to defence spending
Boris Johnson has been told to reverse cuts to defence spending. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has been told to reverse defence cuts as the head of the British Army said it must be ready to "fight and win" to stop a larger war with Russia.

The threat posed by Vladimir Putin to Europe was laid bare on Monday when Moscow struck a busy shopping centre in central Ukraine, an attack denounced as a "war crime" by G7 leaders.

Nato has announced it will dramatically beef up its response force from 40,000 troops to 300,000 as its members worry about Russian designs on eastern Europe, including on the former Soviet states that have since joined the defensive alliance.

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey said: "When you see, as we have done, the case against such cuts being reinforced by the new threats to Britain and to European security for the next decade from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it beggars belief that the Government hasn't been ready to rethink its plans," he said.

"We have had deep cuts to Britain's defences for the last decade, which have left the foundations for our British armed forces weakened.

"It makes no sense to be cutting even deeper into the British Army."

Boris Johnson has been urged to reverse defence cuts
Boris Johnson has been urged to reverse defence cuts. Picture: Getty

He told The Mirror that Labour is "redoubling our arguments for halting any further Army cuts and redoubling our arguments to rebuild the strength of the British Army".

His comments come ahead of a speech by General Sir Patrick Sanders, the chief of the general staff. Excerpts were released on Monday.

Read more: Boris faces fresh backbench threat as three Tory MPs 'open talks to defect to Labour'

Gen Sanders, speaking at his first public engagement in his new role, will say the army must be ready to stop the spread of a war in Europe by being "ready to fight and win alongside our Nato allies and partners".

"In all my years in uniform, I haven't known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence, as the brutal aggression of President Putin and his expansionist ambitions," he is to say.

The army has been told it must be ready to fight to stop a war spreading in Europe
The army has been told it must be ready to fight to stop a war spreading in Europe. Picture: Getty

"This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war - but must act rapidly so that we aren't drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war."

Boris Johnson is due to meet other Nato leaders in Madrid to agree an overhaul of the alliance, the biggest of its kind since the end of the Cold War.

Read more: Shopping centre in Ukraine with 1,000 people inside hit in Russian missile strike

Defence secretary Ben Wallace is also due to reiterate his calls for more money in the military.

He previously warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak that spending on defence would drop below Nato's minimum of 2% of GDP by the middle of the decade unless more cash is put into it.

It comes after the devastating strike on a Ukrainian shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk, which killed at least a dozen people.

G7 leaders meeting in Germany called it a "war crime".

"We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack," leaders said.

"Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account."