Here’s wishing the new Chief of the General Staff the very best luck as he assumes responsibility for the British Army in these uncertain times. With both the Prime Minister and the Head of NATO telling us to expect a long war in Ukraine/Europe, the challenges facing Britain’s land forces could not be greater because devastating financial cuts have left the army unable to deploy and sustain an armoured division as we did in the Gulf War.
I worked alongside Patrick Sanders after he returned from his outstanding operational command in Basra in 2008 and he grappled with the strategic dilemma facing the Army – the call to focus solely on Afghanistan. His rallying cry to troops this week – telling them to prepare for war with Russia – echoes his writing then, but cancelled training exercises and failed equipment programmes in the past few years have left the British Army in a more parlous state than it has ever been before.
However, the biggest challenge facing the professional head of the army is not physical, but moral – how to incorporate recent changes within society while retaining the “will to fight”? As we approach the annual RUSI Land Warfare Conference on 28 June, there has never been a greater need for a major re-evaluation of current dogma and a return to the basics of a credible and capable army – combined arms manoeuvre.