Army ‘mobilised for new Cold War’: British troops return to Germany amid fears of Russia threat to Europe’s border
- Comes three decades after UK personnel withdrawn following end of Cold War
- Britain and its Nato allies are stepping up their presence in the Baltic region
- Allow for swifter response to any Russian thrust into Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia
British troops, tanks and equipment are being ordered back to Germany amid fears of a Russian threat to the Baltic states.
The move comes three decades after tens of thousands of UK personnel were withdrawn following the end of the Cold War.
But with the growing presence of Russian troops on Europe’s eastern borders, Britain and its Nato allies are stepping up their presence in the region.
It will allow for a swifter response to any Russian thrust into Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
British troops, tanks and equipment are being ordered back to Germany amid fears of a Russian threat to the Baltic states
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs yesterday: ‘Readiness and presence deters our adversaries.
‘Sitting in Tidworth [military camp in Wiltshire] does not put off an adversary such as Russia which is constantly exercising and changing their readiness profile to keep all of us guessing.
‘Nato countries are deeply concerned by that activity.’
The equipment, troops and civilian contractors needed to maintain military hardware will return next year to Sennelager in central Germany, an important training area for British soldiers after the Second World War.
Military figures hope the establishment of a Nato Forward Holding Base in Germany will deter the Kremlin from seeking to seize territory.
Similar hubs will be set up in Kenya and Oman to improve the UK’s operational reach in Africa and the Middle East.
Sennelager already has a 45 square mile training area for practising large-scale manoeuvres and an urban warfare training centre. Now its military infrastructure will be increased.
The move comes three decades after tens of thousands of UK personnel were withdrawn following the end of the Cold War
But as the base is 800 miles from the nearest Baltic state, former defence minister Tobias Ellwood suggested a closer location should have been chosen.
He said: ‘The regrouping of Nato’s defence posture post-Afghanistan is welcome given the immediate security threat to Europe is once again from Russia.
‘But as the frontline has moved since the Cold War it is puzzling to see Nato place its Forward Holding Base in central Germany rather than further east.
‘Poland would have been a better choice, or even one of the Baltic states. This would have sent a stronger signal to Russia about the alliance’s commitment to stand by our allies.’
The return to Germany was announced as part of the ‘Future Soldier’ plan, the Government’s biggest overhaul of the British Army in a generation.
But with the growing presence of Russian troops on Europe’s eastern borders, Britain and its Nato allies are stepping up their presence in the region
Smaller UK bases will be closed, historic regiments red-uced in size and some units will disappear as the Army is remodelled to meet modern challenges such as cyber warfare.
Five hundred troops from 3 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps were told yesterday they were being disbanded, while 3 Medical Regiment (RAMC) is also being axed.
Troops will be reassigned or offered voluntary redundancy. The infantry will be hardest hit, with 3,000 posts going.
Overall, the Army will shrink to 73,000 regular trained soldiers by 2025, its smallest size for 300 years.
The Ministry of Defence said last night: ‘Future Soldier is about delivering a modern British Army that is fit for the challenges of the future.
‘Regional hubs are being established in Germany, Kenya and Oman. This forward deployment provides improved global access and enhanced interoperability, to respond rapidly when required.’