× Britain’s army chief warns risk of accidental war with Russia is greater than during Cold War
(CNN) — Britain’s army chief said Thursday that the risk of armed conflict with Russia is greater than during the Cold War because it has developed superior modern equipment.
Field Marshal Sir Nick Carter, the army’s chief of staff, also predicted he would not retire after the end of his term in 2020. He made the comments in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today program.
“Over the last decade, we have watched with growing alarm, as Russia has developed huge equipment capacity for its armed forces and become more deeply integrated in the global strategic picture. Russia has begun to develop an independent military capability,” Carter said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also frequently asserts Russia’s right to defend its interests and its airspace from attacks by foreign nations.
He cited military exercises involving as many as 70,000 military personnel, including nuclear-capable missiles, and 60 bombers in August in northern Russia, Poland and the Baltic states, an area that includes Lithuania and Latvia.
Russia’s military development “has been immensely rapid” and already has seen Russia holding several warships in the Arctic Ocean in 2016, according to Carter.
Carter said he expects Russia to reach “a level of resiliency and resilience we saw during the Cold War in our own armed forces,” when missiles made it nearly impossible for Russian forces to operate over open water against the United States.
In the interview, Carter said Russia’s investment “is probably the biggest threat to stability and our freedom of navigation.”
Military interventions in Syria, Ukraine and Georgia have alarmed Russia, Carter said.
But he also said he expects a need for stepped-up defense spending beyond the 2% of gross domestic product set by the Conservative-led government that he heads.
Carter told the BBC that he expects a drawdown of British troops in Afghanistan to begin next year.
He also warned of a potential risk of nuclear attack from North Korea and the re-emergence of terrorists.
Carter was appointed to his post in 2015 and took a more upbeat view of the U.K.’s military capabilities when he appeared in a BBC interview in April.
CNN’s Tom Watkins contributed to this report.