The UK’s military chief has questioned whether Britain is ready for what he described as “extraordinarily dangerous times”.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin used a speech on Wednesday evening to warn that the wars in Gaza and Ukraine have the potential to destabilize further “an already febrile and agitated world”.
He also highlighted rising tensions around Taiwan, the western Balkans and North Korea as well as instability in Africa and friction between Venezuela and Guyana.
But “hideous violence” is not the only threat to global order, the chief of the defense staff said.
He also flagged a backdrop of “ideological struggles and creaking pains of tense democracies”.
The head of the armed forces did not offer any examples but his comments come as NATO allies look towards key elections next year, most notably in the United States but also in the UK.
“These are extraordinarily dangerous times,” Admiral Radakin said in an annual lecture at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London.
“We’re spending more on defense. We’re transforming the armed forces. We’re becoming more integrated. But is the machinery and thinking deep within the British state truly calibrated to the scale of what is unfolding?” he asked.
“In short: Does it all stack up?”
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The defense chief used the start of his speech to talk about Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza – triggered by the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October as well as Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
He put them both in the context of a “turning point in global security, in which the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza both have the potential to further destabilize an already febrile and agitated world, but are part of a broader backdrop”.
Admiral Radakin said he did not believe Iran – which backs Hamas and is a sworn enemy of Israel and its allies, including the UK and the US – was seeking a direct war.
“But Iran is comfortable with how events have unfolded.”
Turning to Russia and Ukraine, the defense chief acknowledged that the Ukrainian counter-offensive “gained less ground than was hoped. Russian defenses proved stronger than expected”.
But he also highlighted how Russian President Vladimir Putin looked increasingly isolated globally, with the economy struggling under the cost of the war.
“This is disastrous for Russia and its people. And it is in contrast to President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy who speaks of a ‘new’ Ukraine: a country fit for its heroes.”