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‘We are at war’ – former UK spy chief

Britain needs to make “tough choices” to be able to counter the “threats” posed by Russia and China, a former head of MI6 has said

Britain is engaged in a “gray war” with Russia, but neither the authorities nor the public are taking the situation seriously enough, the former head of the famed spy agency MI6, Richard Dearlove, has warned.

The UK military isn’t getting enough money to be able to counter the “threats” posed by Moscow and Beijing, Richard Dearlove, who led the British Secret Intelligence Service between 1999 and 2004, said in an interview with Politico on Friday.

The statement followed last week’s announcement of the UK’s budget for the next financial year, in which there was no increase in defense spending. It remains at 2% of the country’s GDP.

”If you stopped anyone in the street here in the UK and asked them whether they thought Britain is at war, they’d look at you as if you were mad. But we are at war — we’re engaged in a gray war with Russia, and I am trying to remind people of that,” the former spy chief said.

The British authorities have “got to make some tough choices, and I’m afraid the tough choices are in front of us right now. We should be spending at least 2.5%” on defense, he insisted.

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“We urgently need to be building more ships. We need a much bigger navy. And we need more boots on the ground, for God’s sake,” Dearlove stressed.

The fighting between Russia and Ukraine has shown the importance of manpower on the modern battlefield, the 79-year-old said. The size of the British army had been reduced by more than 26,000 since 2006, and currently has just over 74,000 full-time troops.

Last month, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov accused the UK of being “directly involved” in the conflict between Moscow and Ukraine. He was reacting to a report in The Times which claimed that the head of the UK armed forces, Admiral Tony Radakin, had “helped the Ukrainians with the strategy to destroy Russian ships and open up the Black Sea.” According to Peskov, it is “no secret” for Moscow that the British “provide different forms of support” to Kiev such as “people on the ground and intelligence.”

In February, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the UK has been “even more aggressive, more elaborate in its provocative assertiveness” towards Moscow than any other Western nation during the conflict.


READ MORE: Putin issues warning on US troops in Ukraine 

The UK has been one of the leading backers of Ukraine in Europe since the start of the fighting more than two years ago, pledging to provide Kiev with 12 billion pounds ($15.2 billion) in overall support, including 7.1 billion pounds ($9 billion) in military assistance.

 

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