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UK 'reticent to tackle Russia'

Defence cuts have left Britain reticent to tackle Russia's interference in UK airspace and offshore waters, according to the former head of the Army.

General Sir Peter Wall said the "consequences" of the squeeze on funding is now "playing out" in the UK's approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he warned the West has been "caught napping" amid increasing threats from the Russian Federation and Islamic State.

Sir Peter criticised the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and said funding reductions were based on the assumption that there would be a "reasonably benign security environment for this decade" following the drawdown of combat troops from Afghanistan.

He wrote: "It was acknowledged that we would have less capability in an unexpected crisis than we would wish, and our political choices would be constrained.

"We can now see those consequences playing out in our reticence to counter Russian expansionism, and her interference in our airspace and offshore waters."

Sir Peter called on the Government to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of national income on defence.

He wrote: "In an era of moral and physical disarmament the West has been caught napping."

It comes after a report by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said it was inevitable that Britain's defence spending would drop below the Nato target in the face of continuing austerity cuts.

Up to 30,000 service personnel could go - with the Army likely to bear the heaviest cuts - leaving the armed forces with a combined strength of just 115,000 by the end of the decade, it predicted.

Prime Minister David Cameron is under growing pressure from Tory MPs and peers to make a manifesto commitment to the target.

The leadership is braced for significant criticism over its position when a backbench business motion comes before the Commons on Thursday.

Nick Clegg has claimed Mr Cameron will fail to spend 2% of GDP on defence because he is ideologically wedded to shrinking the state.

Labour has also refused to commit to the figure, with the party's Treasury spokesman, Chris Leslie, telling the BBC: "I know it will be difficult to keep that level of 2% of GDP, but I can tell you it is absolutely impossible under the Conservative trajectory."


From Belfast Telegraph