Russian threat is ‘extremely worrying’ says former Royal Navy chief

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on a visit to Portsmouth  last year
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on a visit to Portsmouth last year
The team passes the Nelson statue in Old Portsmouth. Picture: Keith Woodland (171022-0023)

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URGENT cash needs to be pumped into the military to shore up the UK’s defences against a Russian attack, a former navy chief has said.

Admiral Lord Alan West claimed the money was desperately needed.

Admiral Lord Alan West

Admiral Lord Alan West

His comments come amid a spike in military aggression by Moscow in Syria, which has been condemned by prime minister Theresa May.

Speaking to The News, Lord West claimed Russia was spending an ‘unsupportable’ amount of cash on nuclear weapons and its military, which he said was ‘worrying’.

The former First Sea Lord said: ‘Russia has got a wartime economy. They have a GDP that equates to that of Italy, yet they’re renewing their triad of nuclear defences.

‘Spending that sort of money is unsupportable and very destabilising and that’s extremely worrying.’

The comments come as a team of MPs yesterday quizzed defence secretary Michael Fallon over how prepared the UK was for a Russian invasion.

The former minister for Portsmouth was also asked whether the government was devoting enough cash to its defence budget.

Last December, then-PM David Cameron revealed the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review in which he pledged the nation would spend two per cent of its earning on its military.

But Lord West said the SDSR funding was not enough, adding: ‘There’s insufficient money for the navy. The navy in 2025 will be nothing like that which the government expects.’

Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Committee, claimed the two per cent pledge was only a minimum.

He said the last time the UK faced both a threat of domestic terrorism and serious confrontation in Europe was in the 1980s, when the government spent up to five per cent of its income on defence.

Mr Fallon said these threats were evaluated in the SDSR and was ‘confident’ the UK could respond to Russian aggression if it needed to.

A battalion of 800 British soldiers will be sent to Estonia, with RAF squads based in the Black Sea next year, he said. And he promised the defence budget would rise by half a percent ‘in real terms’ of each year of this parliament.

He added war with Russia was unlikely, saying: ‘We have seen much greater Russian aggression this year than in previous years... but I don’t think that prefaces an open conflict next year.’