The UK is weak against military threats from around the world, according to four former commanders of the Armed Forces.
Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, Admiral Lord Boyce, Field Marshal Lord Walker and Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire said in a joint letter that Britain's global influence is declining, and expressed their concern at its failure to act in the face of escalating crises in the Middle East and Russia.
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They described responses to security threats from Libya, Syria and the Islamic State in Iraq as “feeble”, and put this down to a reluctance to get involved in light of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which left very little public appetite for further international conflict.
The letter, published in The Telegraph, warns that Britain's current position is similar to how it behaved towards Nazi Germany in the run-up to the Second World War.
“Today, although in very different circumstances, there are some uncomfortable similarities,” Sir Nigel wrote. “For example, in the wake of unfinished business in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is currently little public appetite for further, significant military intervention abroad.”
Thus there is 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 the Islamic State.Meanwhile, we watch as a resurgent Russia rattles an ever-larger sabre and, sanctions notwithstanding, acts with impunity in Crimea and Ukraine.
Warning on cuts
The letter comes ahead of a huge £500m worth of spending cuts to be made at the Ministry of Defence this year, and a further review of spending in the autumn.
Sir Nigel says that if the government further reduces military spend, it will be “neglecting its prime and overriding duty, the defence of the nation, by failing to halt the progressive decline of British military capability into penny packet numbers”.