And Iain Ballantyne, editor of Warships International Fleet Review, said if reports about the process were accurate, NATO’s ability to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s activities in the Arctic would be increasingly compromised. Mr Ballantyne was writing after the integrated review, which was put on ice as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and which is being spearheaded by Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, resumed last week.
Paper tiger Britain will be laughed at around the world by enemies and ignored by allies
An article in the Sunday Times suggested the army will be slashed by a quarter, Royal Marines commando brigade would be disbanded, airfields shut and helicopters taken out out of service, with resources redirected into cyber-warfare, space and artificial intelligence.
Referring to the article, Mr Ballantyne said: “Paper tiger Britain will be laughed at around the world by enemies and ignored by allies, while those dependencies that have seen it as offering security and succour will know it cannot be totally relied upon any more.
“Nobody will take such an under-funded, poorly equipped, ill-suited military seriously.
Cuts to the military would make the UK a laughing stock, Boris Johnson has been warned
Royal Marine commandos coming ashore during a major exercise in the Baltic
“When it comes to real defence, in peacetime crisis or wartime conflagration, the UK will be about as useful as chocolate fireguard.”
The proposals would mean the UK’s standing army would cut cut from 74,000 to 55,000, Mr Ballantyne said.
He warned: “In effect, the alleged proposed cuts would discard the UK’s ability to project conventional power around the world, abandoning the ability to rescue British citizens from war zones, while removing its best means of guaranteeing the delivery of Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) into devastated regions.
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Dominic Cummings is spearheading the review
“Or on the homeland front, to provide the NHS with offshore medical and logistical support to fight coronavirus if asked
“Gone also would be the British ability to contribute significantly to a coalition campaign on land, in the air or at sea, with the UK slumping to the status of a malformed military weakling with imbalanced forces – bloated at one end with nuclear missile submarines and strike carriers while being malnourished at the other, with hardly any tanks, ships, aircraft or troops.”
He added: “Taking massive gambles by discarding whole capabilities, such cuts would, for example, remove the best options for reinforcing and defending NATO’s northern flank ashore at a time of rising Russian military presence in the Arctic.
“They would wipe away the ability to deploy rapid reaction forces to protect the many British Overseas Territories and enable Britain to pull its weight in elements of collective security.”
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One of HMS Albion’s landing craft sending vehicles ashore
A Royal Navy mine-hunter in Arabian waters
Such cuts suggested the UK was on the verge of further hollowing-out of its armed forces at a time when the country was not yet recovered from the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Ballantyne said.
He added: “They are already a shadow of their former selves due to endless, debilitating defence cuts since 1991, with deep problems that in war will be found out swiftly by enemies.
“The UK is heading off at a potentially catastrophic tangent at a time when Russia and China are expanding their military hard power, not least investing in the very capabilities the UK may discard.”
Should the cuts become a reality, the UK would be putting up a white flag and inviting malign actors around the world to come and targets its strategic weaknesses, Mr Ballantyne said.
The world’s largest militaries campared
He added: “It is the height of arrogant foolery to expect NATO allies to provide all the heavy-lifting while your cyber warriors sit on their backsides in some office drinking coffee and theorising about ‘space frontiers’.
“Good luck with deterring an adversary from taking a slice of British territory, and you’ll stand no chance of getting any of it back – and why should NATO allies sacrifice the very hard power capabilities you have binned to save the UK’s skin?
“Why on Earth would a single Dutch, French or Italian amphibious ship, along with its crew and marines, be worth risking to help the UK out when it cannot help itself?”
Mr Ballantyne concluded: “Boris Johnson’s hero is said to be Winston Churchill.
The amphibious warfare vessel HMS Albion
“Should these barking mad proposals come to pass Boris will be regarded as the biggest, most blundering villain.
“Bo Jo will be forever remembered as a hopeless leader who lost the defence plot, leaving a legacy of declining global status, military irrelevance and likely strategic defeat.”
Asked about Mr Ballantyne’s comments, an MOD spokesperson said: “This Government has committed to grow defence spending.
“The MOD is progressing its contribution to the Integrated Review by planning how best to meet tomorrow’s threats within that increasing budget.”