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Europe Must Shoulder More Defense Burden as U.S. Tackles China Threat: U.K. Army Chief

Undated photo of General Sir Patrick Sanders. (Andrew Matthews/PA Media)
Undated photo of General Sir Patrick Sanders. (Andrew Matthews/PA Media)

European countries should take up the burden of defending their own continent to free up U.S. resources that can be used to tackle the threat posed by the Chinese regime, the new head of the British Army has said.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), said Britain and its Western allies must be “unequivocally prepared to fight” if Russia launches an attack on NATO territory.

In his first public engagement since taking up his post, Sanders said Russia is likely to emerge from the conflict in Ukraine as an even greater threat to European security.

But he emphasised the West cannot ignore the threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) even when it faces Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “expansionist ambitions.”

China’s ‘Chronic Challenge’

“In meeting a revanchist Russia, we cannot be guilty of myopically chasing the ball,” he said. “Defence cannot ignore the exponential rise and chronic challenge of China, not just within the South China Sea but through its sub-threshold activities across the globe.”

Sanders said he believes that “the burden for conventional deterrence in Europe will fall increasingly to European members” of the NATO military alliance and the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), an alliance of northern European nations including Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway.

He said it is “right” for European countries to shoulder more defence responsibilities, because “taking up the burden in Europe means we can free more U.S. resources to ensure that our values and interests are protected in the Indo-Pacific.”

‘Our 1937 Moment’

Speaking at the Land Warfare Conference convened by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, the army chief likened the current situation to the run up to the Second World War, saying Putin’s “brutal aggression” in Ukraine represents the greatest threat to European peace and democracy in decades.

“This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war, but must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion,” he said.

Sanders raises questions about the future size of the British Army, warning that any further cuts to the army would be “perverse” as a land war rages in Europe.

Speaking at the same event, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also said defence spending must “continue to grow” to counter the security threats.

“The threat is growing, is global and multi-domain,” he said. “It is now time to signal that the peace dividend is over and investment needs to continue to grow before it becomes too late to address the resurgent threat and the lessons learned in Ukraine. It is time to mobilise, be ready, and be relevant.”

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