The new head of the British Army warned soldiers that they must prepare “to fight in Europe once again,” comments that take new meaning as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to rage on.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, who started in the top position on Monday, addressed troops and civil servants for the first time in an internal message on Thursday.
In the rallying cry, published by BBC News, the commander said: “Russia's invasion of Ukraine underlines our core purpose to protect the UK by being ready to fight and win wars on land. There is now a burning imperative to forge an army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle.”
He added, “We are the generation that must prepare the Army to fight in Europe once again.”
Sanders noted in his message that he is the first chief of the general staff since 1941 to “take command of the Army in the shadow of a land war in Europe involving a major continental power."
He set goals, including mobilizing and modernizing the army in a bid to boost NATO’s defense and to “deny Russia the chance to occupy any more of Europe.”
Sanders is leading the smallest army Britain has had for over 300 years, a period of time that stretches through the Cold War and into its reign as a global colonial power. In March, data from the Ministry of Defense showed that between October 2021 and January 2022, the number of soldiers in the U.K. Armed Forces dropped by 1,800 — to just over 197,000.
Later that month, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced a future vision for the British army, which included £3 billion (about $3.7B) to be spent on new long-range rocket systems and air defenses, as well as £120 million (about $147M) for creating new Ranger Regiments.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday — his second surprise visit since Russia's invasion began on Feb. 24. “It was incredibly moving to walk the streets of Kyiv with you once more, to pay tribute to your fallen soldiers whose sacrifice, unconquerable courage and bravery we will never forget,” Johnson said.