Home » UK defence chief doubts Russia wants war with NATO as he marks D-Day anniversary

UK defence chief doubts Russia wants war with NATO as he marks D-Day anniversary

Russia’s Vladimir Putin does not want a direct war with NATO and he does not want a nuclear war, the head of the UK armed forces has said.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin also signalled that Moscow and Beijing lack the military “proficiency” to defeat the kind of barrage of drones and missiles that the United States and its allies destroyed in April when Iran attempted to attack Israel.

In an interview to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings of the Second World War, the Chief of the Defence Staff sought to strike a reassuring tone that a third global conflict was not imminent, cautioning against using “loose language”. Instead, he said things have merely become “a bit more dangerous”.

But Admiral Radakin said he believed the British public would again rise to the challenge should there ever be another existential threat like the one once posed by Nazi Germany.

“Absolutely! I think our nation has got that pride, it has got that commitment,” he said.

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The admiral – who was unable to answer specific questions on UK defence issues because of the general election campaign – was speaking in front of the original map that was used to help plan “Operation Overlord”, the codename for the allied invasion of occupied France.

It covers the entire wall of a room at Southwick House, near Portsmouth, where US General Dwight Eisenhower, along with Britain’s General Bernard Montgomery and Admiral Bertram Ramsay, agreed on the ultimate timing for D-Day on 6 June 1944 – after a 24-hour delay because of bad weather.

General Eisenhower “got to the point, apparently with the rain lashing against the windows here, and he said: ‘Ok let’s go’,” Admiral Radakin said.

In what remains the biggest ever seaborn attack, some 150,000 soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches on the first day, backed by 7,000 ships and more than 2,000 aircraft.

“What we can learn from it is that when nations come together, you can do amazing things,” the UK defence chief said.

Image:
President Biden has recently permitted Ukraine’s armed forces to use US-supplied weapons on targets inside Russia. Pic: AP

While not at the same level, he drew similarities between allied action against the Nazis and how western nations are rallying to help Ukraine fight Russia‘s invasion today.

It’s a war of economies. It’s a war of logistics. It’s a war of industrial production. it’s a war of, political will,” he said.

“It is all of those things for the simplicity of bringing peace back to the people of Ukraine.”

Admiral Radakin, who is known for having an optimistic outlook, insisted that Russia is “failing” in Ukraine even as Russian forces have launched a new invasion into the northeast region of Kharkiv, where they have recaptured territory as Ukrainian troops suffer from a shortage in ammunition and manpower.

“Russia is making tactical advances on land,” the head of the UK military said.

“But you’ve got to then step back a little. If you go back to March 2022, Russia had taken about 17% of Ukraine’s territory. Today it’s got 11%. So Russia is still in deficit.”

Asked whether he was confident that Ukraine would prevail, Admiral Radakin said: “I’m, hugely confident…

“By the end of June, Russia will have lost 500,000 people – killed and wounded. We are already past 800 days for a war that Putin anticipated to be three days long. This is tough for Ukraine, but we have to maintain our support.”

Admiral Radakin was speaking before the US and other allies publicly backed Ukraine using western weapons to strike military targets inside Russia – a move that has escalated tensions even further between the West and Moscow.

However, he sounded very confident that the Kremlin was not looking for direct confrontation with members of the NATO alliance.

Pic: AP
Image:
Pic: AP

“Putin does not want a war with NATO. Putin does not want a nuclear war. And we have enormous overmatch because of the strength of NATO.”

As for the potential for an imminent third world war, the military chief said: “We’ve got to be very careful that we distinguish between the really severe and deep threats in the late 1930s and then how we entered into a world war and not use loose language that we’re somehow on the cusp of a world war now. The world’s got a bit more dangerous. But we should be reassured by all that we’ve got in place.”

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He spoke about a moment in April when the US, the UK and other allies mobilized in support of the Israeli military to avert a wider Middle East war after Iran decided to launch a major strike against Israel in retaliation for an Israeli attack against an Iranian facility in Syria.

Admiral Radakin said the Iranian regime launched more than 100 ballistic missiles, nearly 200 drones and tens of cruise missiles – which were defeated.

“If I look at that and I compare that to other big events militarily, then actually only the US, with its allies, I think have got that ability,” he said.

“I don’t think our potential adversaries would have been able to respond in the way that you saw on the evening of 13 April.”

Asked specifically if Moscow or Beijing could have done it, he said: “I think the US leadership and the proficiency that we have with our allies is at a level above our potential foes.”