Defence chief warns next UK PM will face 'biggest threat' from Russia

Sir Tony Radakin says Russia's regime appears stable but its armed forces are stalling in Ukraine

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, said he would tell the UK's next prime minister that Russia poses the biggest threat to the country and that an increase in military spending would increase the Army's impact.  PA
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Britain’s armed forces chief said speculation over Russian President Vladimir Putin health or possible assassination is just “wishful thinking”.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin dismissed speculation that Mr Putin was sick and said Russia’s regime looked “relatively stable” to the British army.

“For us, as military professionals, we see a relatively stable regime in Russia, we see that President Putin has been able to quash any opposition and then we see a hierarchy that is invested in President Putin and so nobody at the top has got the motivation to challenge President Putin, and that is bleak,” Sir Tony told the BBC on Sunday.

The UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff said the “challenge of Russia” would endure for several years and warned that conflict with the country would “go on for a long time.”

Calling Russia “the biggest threat” the UK is facing, the military chief said the UK’s next prime minister would be briefed on the war in Ukraine and reminded of the “extraordinary responsibility they have with the UK as a nuclear power”.

Five candidates are currently competing in a leadership race to be the UK’s new prime minister after they are elected by Conservative Party members to succeed Boris Johnson.

Sir Tony said the depletion of resources in Ukraine made Russian land forces “less of a threat in the short term” but warned that “Russia in all its guises” remained a danger.

“Russia continues to be a nuclear power, it’s got cyber capabilities, it’s got space capabilities, and it’s got particular programmes under water so it can threaten the underwater cables that allow the world’s information to transit around the whole globe,” he said.

The military chief said an increase in the UK’s defence spending to 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) would make Britain’s armed forces “even more modern” and make them “have even more impact around the world.”

Reflecting on a recent visit to Kyiv, Sir Tony said Ukraine’s army “absolutely” believes it will win the war in the face of a Russia that is “struggling” and has “lost more than 30 per cent of its land combat effectiveness”.

“What that actually means is 50,000 Russian soldiers that have either died or been injured in this conflict, nearly 1,700 Russian tanks destroyed, nearly 4,000 armoured fighting vehicles that belong to Russia destroyed,” said Sir Tony.

He said Russia was “struggling” to make and keep its limited territorial gains “because of the courage and determination of the Ukrainian armed forces”.

“Russia started this invasion with the ambition to take the whole of Ukraine, Russia had the ambition to take the cities in the first 30 days, Russia had the ambition to create fractures and to apply pressure to Nato … Russia is failing in all of those ambitions, Russia is a more diminished nation than it was at the beginning of February.”

Updated: July 17, 2022, 1:21 PM

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