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British defence spending – better directed at training professional military force

Forget Britain’s nuclear deterrent – here’s what Russia is really afraid of, The Guardian, 19 Jan 18, Russia is being weaponised to justify big-ticket buys for the UK military, yet there’s little talk of what Moscow thinks matters

British defence spending and capabilities are in the middle of a bitter review in which the potential threat from Russia is frequently invoked, whether that means cutting ocean-bottom internet cables, flying bombers into our airspace, or invading Nato territory.

Russia is – to use a word of the day – being weaponised in the name of particular service interests and justifying big-ticket new systems. Nonetheless, given that Russia is the most serious aggressor the UK might have to face, it is striking how little discussion there has been about what kind of British military capabilities genuinely concern Russian soldiers and planners.

Insofar as one can glean lessons from their military writings, and courtesy of my own conversations with Russian officers, both serving and retired, I can see three definite concerns of theirs and one glaring omission.

The suggestion that the UK merges and shrinks its special and intervention forces would no doubt be roundly cheered in the Russian general staff’s massive building on Znamenka Street, Moscow. As a recently retired officer from its planning directorate once said to me, with more enthusiasm than originality: “Britain has always had the best light infantry in the world, and the bastards get places faster than we would like.”…….

In a way, the Russians have a similar perspective on the Royal Navy. What bothers them is not our massive new aircraft carrier, which one naval officer said would make a great “missile magnet” in time of war. Rather, the concern is about smaller, lighter forces. …..

Thirdly, it is not just specific forces and units that the Russians believe gives the UK its edge, but training and morale. Russian successes in Crimea and Syria partly represent an unfamiliar new emphasis on the human side of their military. Britain’s problems of having to scrimp on training and overstretch its forces have not gone unnoticed…….

if deterring the Russians is a major concern, then it is worth paying attention to what might really deter them: a flexible, fast-moving and versatile force of true professionals. Not necessarily with the heaviest kit, the biggest ships or the priciest aircraft, but able to get where they are needed, when they are needed.  Dr Mark Galeotti is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and head of its Centre for European Security.

January 20, 2018 - Posted by | UK, weapons and war

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