The UK cannot protect itself from a surprise attack from Russia or China, a former defence chief has warned.
General Sir Richard Barrons, the former head of the Joint Forces Command, said the UK has not properly adapted to changes in warfare since the end of the Cold War and the country needed to have a “profoundly important debate” about its military needs.
Sir Richard told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme said the UK needed to make a serious investment in its military capabilities and tackle new threats such as cyberattacks.
He said: “Nobody in Government is having the profoundly important debate that we need to have about how the world is changing and how the UK is at greater risk and what we need to do in the future.
“It’s very straightforward – the risk today and more so in the future is that countries like Russia and China already have capability that could hold the UK homeland at military risk at very short notice. We can’t really deal with that.”
He warned that Britain was also “running the risk” that they would not be able to help its citizens or allies abroad that need military assistance.
The Government funding of the Armed Forces has come under fire in recent years as experts warn cuts to the Budget have led to a severe shortage in the number of troops.
In September a review by former Armed Forces minister Mark Francois said the British military was being “hollowed out” by low recruitment levels and all three branches are “running to stand still” as they replace those who leave.
He said that in the year to April 2017 12,950 recruits joined the regular armed forces but 14,970 personnel left.
In addition the number of people leaving the Army Reserve, formerly known as the Territorial Army, increased by 20 per cent between June 2016 and June 2017.
Part of the reason for this decline has been blamed on the Government’s “flawed austerity drive”.
In 2012, then-Defence Secretary Philip Hammond unveiled a plan to cut the number of regular soldiers from the regular army by 20,000 and move the UK’s military towards a model where the majority of troops are reserves and it does not have to pay for a large standing army.
But the Government insists it is still spending the two per cent of GDP on defence as required of it as a Nato member.
Currently it is one of only five Nato members, alongside the US, Estonia, Greece and Estonia and Poland, that is meeting the target.
A spokesman for Downing Street said: “We are spending 2 per cent (of GDP) on defence every year, we are committed to doing so. And we are committed to providing the armed forces with the resources that they need to protect this country’s interests.