Written by By Rich Hornung, CNN
The possibility of war with Russia is greater than at any time since the 1980s, according to Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff.
“Everything can happen at this time,” Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter told the BBC. “The possibility of war with Russia is greater than it has been at any time since the end of the Cold War.”
Military experts say recent tensions between the West and Russia, marked by the annexation of Crimea, the bombing of targets in Syria and accusations of cyberattacks and interference in US elections, would indicate a nuclear-armed conflict is a real possibility.
Countries like the UK have been trained to defend against multiple attacks from a single country, but all indications are that the UK is not equipped to withstand a conventional attack from Russia, General Carter said, suggesting “potential long-term implications” for UK defence.
“What we have to be prepared for is a situation where in the next 12 months, not next year but actually next 12 months, the United Kingdom has to choose between dealing with this cyberwarfare threat or dealing with a conventional conventional war,” he added.
He added that he did not know what was the precise nature of the potential conflict, but “you have to accept there are always risks in any conflict. You just have to make sure you’re able to deal with all of them.”
James Smith, professor of international relations at King’s College London, told CNN the decision to withdraw from the Syria offensive has left the UK “definitely exposed” and “definitely vulnerable to further attacks” by Russia.
“Without parliament’s involvement and without Parliamentary involvement in the motion to leave, the UK has given Russia the go-ahead to start an indiscriminate air campaign on a population,” Smith said.
Smith also disagreed with Carter’s suggestion that a nuclear conflict was likely to arise as a result of conflict with Russia.
“I believe that we are entirely capable of providing the people of the UK with air defense if necessary,” he said. “The Russians were so dominated by this aircraft, we would be able to deal with them very effectively indeed.
“The most likely threat is the cyber, because the Russians have very few effective defenses and because they are very concerned about the security of all the Russian networks,” he added.
Speaking on Thursday, Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, said a senior Royal Navy officer had advised him that ships were the UK’s best potential tools for cyberdefence.
“The cyber submarines are good, as are the destroyers, the frigates and the corvettes,” he told the BBC. “We now have a really good Navy, one that understands how to deal with and engage in large-scale cyber warfare and it’s likely that it will be part of the reason why the Navy will be an important contributor to our response.”