The British military’s supply of ammunition would run dry in just one day in a direct engagement with Russia as a result of years of spending cuts to the nation’s defence, a former top general has warned.
General Sir Richard Barrons, who formerly served as the Joint Forces chief, claimed that spending cuts have depleted the British military to such an extent that, in a hot war with Russia, the UK would run out of ammunition and artillery shells within just one day.
According to research conducted by The Sun newspaper, the United Kingdom’s ammunition plants would need at least one year to produce the amount of shells currently used by the Ukrainians in their conflict with Russia.
“This is truly shocking. But it is true. And we must fix it,” General Barrons wrote. “The UK spends more on defence than any EU ally and our brave Armed Forces have long been one of Britain’s most influential levers around the world.”
“Yet for decades they have been hollowed out by spending cuts,” he added, saying that the government would need to spend an additional ?3 billion per year on the military to fall in line with the top level of the NATO alliance.
The Ministry of Defence, for its part, said that while ammunition levels are “highly classified”, it was boosting spending on ammunition stockpiles to “more than pre-invasion levels” with an extra ?560 million earmarked by the Treasury.
The MoD also suggested that judging Britain’s readiness by the current conflict’s standards was disingenuous.
“The war in Ukraine is an example of Soviet doctrine which uses vast quantities of artillery. We do not, nor ever have, used artillery in such methods, so to try and draw such conclusions is misleading,” they claimed.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also said this week that the United Kingdom’s defence apparatus has been “hollowed out and underfunded” — although he neglected to mention who was responsible for this.
“There’s a recognition that as the world gets more dangerous, unstable, defence should continue to get a growing proportion of spend, we can then debate how much that proportion should be,” he said.
In the first seven years after the so-called Conservative Party came into power after 2010, annual defence spending fell by ?6.6 billion in real terms — a reduction of 14.6 per cent compared to the 2009-10 budget.
While slashing the military budget, the supposedly right-wing government has poured billions into left-wing projects such green energy and foreign aid, ironically including money for other nations’ militaries.
However, last year the government finally promised to increase military spending, pledging ?7 billion in extra funding for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which should see defence spending rise to ?51.7 billion.
Despite the apparent lack of military readiness, war hawks in the Conservative Party such as former prime minister Boris Johnson and the head of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, have both called this week for Britain to double down on its support for Ukraine, with Mr Johnson calling for the government to send fighter jets to the Ukrainians.
Ellwood, meanwhile, said that Britain should engage “directly” with Russia in Ukraine rather than letting the local fighting force “do all the work”, despite noting that currently the British military is in a “dire” state, with 10,000 fewer troops than necessary.
“It is up to the Treasury and Number 10 to recognise the world is changing — we are now at war in Europe, we need to move to a war footing,” Ellwood said.
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka