Defence chief warns new PM Russia is ‘biggest threat to Britain’

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Admiral Sir Tony Radakin says the “challenge” of Moscow could continue for decades. His comments come after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army to “intensify” its attacks on Ukraine.

Sir Tony, the UK Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “The biggest threat is Russia and that’s Russia in all its guises.

“Its land forces are probably less of a threat in the short term [due to] that depletion we’re seeing with their struggle in Ukraine.

“But Russia continues to be a nuclear power, it’s got cyber capabilities, it’s got space capabilities, and it’s got particular programmes under water.

“So it can threaten underwater cables that allow information to transit around the globe.”

The Admiral said the successor to Boris Johnson would be briefed. He said: “We will always give them a brief on the current situation so they are aware of where we have our Armed Forces.

“That’s dominated by Ukraine. We also give a wider threat picture.

“And then we have to remind the Prime Minister of the extraordinary responsibility they have with the UK as a nuclear power.”

When asked what UK’s Armed Forces would look like if defence spending increased from 2.2 to three per cent of GDP, Sir Tony said: “They would be more modern and would have even more punch and more impact around the world. That’s clearly a choice for government.”

The senior Royal Navy officer dismissed speculation about Putin’s health or if he may be assassinated when asked by Sophie Raworth on BBC One’s Sunday Morning show if he could be “toppled” or face “regime change”.

He said: “Some of the comments that he’s not well or that somebody’s going to assassinate him, they’re wishful thinking. We see a relatively stable regime in Russia. President Putin has been able to quash opposition.

“We see a hierarchy invested in Putin. So nobody at the top has got the motivation to challenge President Putin and that is bleak.” But Sir Tony said Ukraine’s army “absolutely” believed it would win the war.

He said: “They plan to restore the whole of their territory and they see a Russia that is struggling, a Russia we assess has lost more than 30 per cent of its land combat effectiveness.

“What that means is 50,000 Russian soldiers that have either died or been injured, nearly 1,700 Russian tanks destroyed, nearly 4,000 armoured fighting vehicles that belong to Russia destroyed.”

But Moscow has vowed to ramp up military operations in Ukraine as its invasion continues.

Russia’s defence ministry yesterday said its aircraft had shot down a Ukrainian Mi-17 helicopter near the eastern town of Sloviansk and an SU-25 aircraft in the Kharkiv region.

The army also said it had destroyed a depot in southern city Odesa that stored Harpoon antiship missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO countries.

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