Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
military union jack ;

What can the British military do in this crisis?

Militarily, the UK can be no more than a spectator in this crisis. The major issue here is that the West faces the country with the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, something which will shape any military response to the crisis and almost certainly hold it below certain parameters.

Notwithstanding this, to be a credible NATO partner and deterrent to Russia, Britain needs to reverse the cuts in combat power announced in last year’s Integrated Review of security policy and in past defence reviews.

The largest British land force deployed right now consists of the equivalent of an understrength brigade – about 2000 soldiers and forty tanks – in Estonia and we currently have elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade exercising in Norway and Royal Marines in Poland. We have cut the size of the Army’s tank force to just under 150 tanks, we now have no armoured infantry carriers and much of our artillery and air defence assets are obsolete with replacements being phased in slowly.

The Army’s capacity to fight the kind of high-intensity battles we are seeing already in Ukraine is therefore limited and bear in mind that this is fundamentally a land war, which means that the main beneficiary of recent defence spending, the Royal Navy, can play only the most limited role if any at all. The UK’s military options are therefore limited to supplying weaponry plus perhaps some covert action by Special Forces.



In this story

Simon Anglim

Simon Anglim

Teaching Fellow

Latest news