Why is British Army chief urging citizens' training for 'potential war with Russia'?

The outgoing Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Patrick Sanders underlined the necessity of laying the foundations for national mobilisation, echoing concerns raised by the NATO military committee.

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New Delhi: In a notable address at the International Armoured Vehicles conference, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff (CGS), emphasised the need for ordinary citizens to be "trained and equipped" for potential military service in the event of a conflict with Russia. The call, seen as a warning, highlights the urgency of expanding the army's size to approximately 120,000, up from the current 74,000. Despite Downing Street ruling out conscription, General Sanders advocates for a "whole-of-nation undertaking."

Preparing for national mobilisation?

General Sanders stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach, citing the proactive measures taken by Eastern and Northern European nations to prepare for potential conflict with Russia. He underlined the necessity of laying the foundations for national mobilisation, echoing concerns raised by the NATO military committee. The shift towards readiness for war is deemed not only desirable but essential, as illustrated by Ukraine's situation.

Whole-of-nation undertaking

In his address, General Sanders asserted, "We will not be immune, and as the pre-war generation, we must similarly prepare - and that is a whole-of-nation undertaking." He drew attention to the critical role of citizen armies in winning wars, using Ukraine as a stark example. Despite regular armies starting wars, citizen armies, according to General Sanders, play a pivotal role in achieving victory.

Concerns over military cuts, war readiness

General Sanders has been a vocal critic of military cuts and reductions in troop numbers. His call for citizen training aligns with his concerns about the shrinking size of the army and insufficient military spending. The outgoing CGS, set to be replaced by General Sir Roly Walker, has consistently advocated for a robust defence ecosystem to address emerging global challenges.

Political response, defence budget

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, acknowledging the evolving global landscape, emphasised the necessity of ensuring the entire defence ecosystem is ready for potential threats. Despite assurances that army service will remain voluntary, concerns persist over the overstretched state of the military. Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood echoed the need for preparedness, cautioning against a "1939 feel" to the world and urging careful consideration of General Sanders' warnings.

Furthermore, General Sanders' call for citizen training underscores the evolving geopolitical landscape and the perceived need for comprehensive national preparedness in the face of potential conflicts, particularly with Russia. As the UK navigates these challenges, the role of citizen armies emerges as a crucial aspect of future military strategies.