The war in Ukraine reveals the flaws in the British army

William Molinié, edited by Loane Nader
06:17, February 02, 2023modified to

06:24, February 02, 2023

Although a European bridgehead for arms deliveries to Ukraine, the British Army is weakened, due to a downward budgetary orientation and strategic choices to abandon certain capabilities. Historically relegated to the back of the pack, behind the Navy and the Air Force, the British Army – the equivalent of the French Army – is today touching the limits of the strategic choices to abandon certain segments, the fruits of its history and budgetary priorities.

If the British presented themselves as the European bridgehead for deliveries to kyiv, with 2.3 billion pounds spent last year, they are now facing a bitter observation: several voices in London and Washington are alerted to the “disastrous state” of the Kingdom’s defense.

“Quickly correct the shot”

So much so that the government plans to update its recent strategic review in the next few weeks. “They bet a lot on new technologies, artificial intelligence, cyber. Much less on the fighter. They find themselves having to correct things a little in a hurry and realize that their model is not adapted to the brutality of the context”, explains a connoisseur of the British Army.

Several strategic trade-offs weakened the fighting strength of the United Kingdom. First the masses with downsizing. The ground troops lost 10,000 soldiers, soon 3,000 more. Then, the material is aging. In the early 2000s, the British Army had 900 tanks, compared to 148 today. Above all, the Iraqi and Afghan theaters led to off-the-shelf purchases of equipment instantly adapted to counter-terrorism, but not robust enough against a conventional army.

Systematic American backing

The fiscal trajectory has also melted. The United Kingdom’s defense budget now represents 2% of GDP, just at the level of NATO recommendations, even though many European countries have raised this rate since the war in Ukraine.

This made a senior French officer say that “the British can no longer even consider conducting an operation without being backed by the Americans”. This loss of strategic autonomy is even more glaring in the field of deterrence. For example, the British nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SNLE) must before and after each patrol make a stopover in the United States to load and unload warheads.

At the level of Italians and Germans

Nor do they have a single observation satellite of their own. “Funny conception of sovereignty”, we comment in Paris. “This backing to the Americans is the legacy of the Second World War. Yes it is a loss of autonomy, but the USA is still the best army in the world, they were not mistaken in their alliance”, nuance another military sources.

The fact remains that in Washington, the British Army is now placed at a secondary level and it is even considered that it would struggle to rise to the level of the German or Italian land forces.

Source: Europe1

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