Britain should 'reassess' size of its military, head of US navy says, after UK army chief's 'call up' warning

26 January 2024, 08:17 | Updated: 26 January 2024, 09:05

Carlos del Toro urged the UK to 'reassess' the size of its military
Carlos del Toro urged the UK to 'reassess' the size of its military. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

The head of the US navy has warned that Britain needs to "reassess" the size of its military amid the rise of threats from hostile countries.

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Carlos del Toro said that it was "significantly important" for the UK to invest in its military, given the tense situation with Russia and in Yemen.

It comes after General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the British army, warned ministers of the need to mobilise the public if the UK goes to war with Russia.

Sir Patrick wants British men and women to be prepared to fight in a war with Putin's forces, two years into his invasion of Ukraine. The Ministry of Defence said there were no plans to return to peacetime conscription.

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Sir Patrick wants regular Brits to 'think more like troops' in case all-out war with Russia does break out.

Reports emerged last week that the shrinking size of the army had relegated the UK to a second-tier military power in the eyes of some in the US.

The army currently stands at around 76,000 regular full-time troops, down from nearly 103,000 in 2012.

Speaking after a conference in London, Mr del Toro told the Times: "I think it is important for the United Kingdom to reassess where they are today given the threats that exist today."

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The US navy chief said it was important that the British government make decisions about the size of its military independently.

"But I would argue, quite frankly, that given the near-term, economic threats to the United Kingdom and the United States that investments in their navy are significantly important."

Mr del Toro also said he had “tremendous respect” for the military professionalism of the UK.

Mr del Toro was speaking amid an airstrike campaign by the US and the UK against the Houthis in Yemen, who have been disrupting an important shipping line with attacks on commercial vessels.

He said that the militaries would continue "even if it comes at a great cost", and would keep going "for as long as we need to".

“We are saving lives out there," he said.

British Army Challenger 2 tanks in a military exercise in Poland
British Army Challenger 2 tanks in a military exercise in Poland. Picture: Getty

He continued: "Make no mistake, these costs aren’t borne by Iran. Rather, they are a burden on the everyday American, Briton, and European, and are paid for at the gas pump, at the grocery store, at the pharmacy, not to mention the delays in the shipping of everyday household items.

"We cannot — will not — hesitate to counter those who threaten safe passage across our global maritime commons, even if it does come at a great cost."

An MoD spokesman said: “We are confident we have robust plans in place and that our professional Armed Forces are ready to deal with current and future threats.”