Defence Cuts Warning Over Putin Threat
Britain's armed forces need to be maintained at a "credible" level to deter threats ranging from cyber attacks to a nuclear strike, MPs have warned.
The Commons Defence Committee said Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine - coupled with its test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) - showed "the re-emergence of state threats that we may have been tempted to think had diminished with the end of the Cold War".
The committee said the move showed Russian President Vladimir Putin was prepared to use Moscow's nuclear capabilities "as a form of leverage in global relations".
The cross-party group of MPs argued the UK's national security depended upon its ability to maintain a credible deterrent against a range of threats.
Further cutbacks could ultimately call into question the effectiveness of the Trident nuclear deterrent without the backing of sufficient forces and their ability to project military "fighting power", the committee said.
"State threats may become manifest in a range of ways, including through attack with CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) weapons, conventional forces, terrorist proxies or cyber capabilities," it added.
The committee called for a re-evaluation of the threat level to the UK by the Government's National Security Council when it updates the National Security Strategy next year.
The warning came a few days after Lord Dannatt, the ex-head of the Army, called for military cutbacks to be reversed to put "muscle" behind Western diplomacy in light of the Ukraine crisis.
Lord Dannatt, who led the Army between 2006 and 2008, said with defence budgets being cut, Mr Putin saw the West as "looking pretty weak", which encouraged him to be "pretty bold on his own fringes".
He told Sky News on Monday: "I think we are sending the wrong message to Mr Putin and indeed to others if the West would appear to be disarming and reducing its military capability."
Dr Andrew Murrison, Minister for International Security Strategy, said: "Britain has some of the very finest and best equipped armed forces, underpinned by the world's fourth largest defence budget and backed up by the nuclear deterrent, the ultimate guarantor of our national security."