With Ukraine desperately battling to bolster its defences against an impending Russian winter offensive, and Israeli forces struggling to make headway against fanatical Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Western resolve understandably finds itself under intense scrutiny.
Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch his “special military operation” against Ukraine was motivated by a belief that the West would not mount any meaningful opposition.
The extensive military support Kyiv consequently received from its Western allies – including Britain – proved vital in helping Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression, while sending a clear message to Moscow not to threaten Nato’s borders.
As the war approaches its second anniversary, severe weapons shortages and worrying signs of waning Western support are undermining Ukraine’s war effort. This may lead Putin to conclude that he can still emerge victorious in his confrontation with the West, which is bound to encourage further provocations in future.
It is a similar picture in Gaza where, despite the ferocity of Israel’s military assault, the Israel Defence Forces are still encountering stiff resistance from Hamas.
A key calculation for the Iranian-backed terrorists responsible for carrying out the October 7 attacks will have been that, while the atrocities would provoke a massive Israeli military response, it would ultimately fail to achieve its objective of destroying the terrorist organisation.
A combination of the scale of the Israeli military operation required to destroy Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, together with the likelihood that Western support for the Israeli cause would quickly dissipate, will have convinced Hamas and its Iranian paymasters that they could prevail.
Consequently, both Hamas and Tehran will have been buoyed by the recent indications that, far from backing the Israeli offensive, the Biden administration wants Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be removed from power, while senior Israeli intelligence chiefs are sceptical the IDF’s “Operation Swords of Iron” can achieve its ultimate goal of destroying Hamas.
Iran and its nexus of Islamist groups will feel assured that they can escalate their confrontations with the West if Hamas continues to function as a terrorist entity once the IDF offensive has ended.
With the global threat environment becoming more ominous by the day, the overriding priority for major Western powers such as Britain should be to strengthen our military resources as a matter of urgency, in order to tackle any future hostile acts, be they Russian operations against Nato’s eastern flank or Iranian-backed attacks against key allies.
Except, as General Sir Patrick Sanders, the chief of the general staff, has revealed in a devastating critique of the current state of our military readiness, more than a decade of defence cuts mean that Britain would in future have to rely on a “citizen Army” if it became involved in an all-out war with a hostile state like Russia.
Given how the Ukraine conflict is going, such an eventuality cannot be ruled out. In recent months, several prominent military figures, including Admiral Rob Bauer, the head of Nato’s military committee, have issued stark warnings that Europe needs to prepare for war with Russia, a view echoed this week by the head of the Norwegian military, who said that time was running out to defend Europe from an increasingly unpredictable Putin.
Yet, not only is the UK Government in the process of reducing the Army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic era, military chiefs find themselves struggling to muster sufficient recruits to maintain the paltry 72,500 fully-trained soldiers that will be left by next year.
Numerous factors explain the recruitment crisis that is affecting all three Services, including the rank indifference that often characterises the attitude of our political leaders to military concerns. Why should our brave young men and women want to risk their lives when ministers have little interest in taking military issues with the seriousness they deserve?
Another consideration is in the insidious growth of wokery within the recruitment system, with officers often encouraged to prioritise diversity targets over more traditional recruiting methods. The Royal Air Force, for example, last year had to issue a grovelling apology after an official inquiry found it had unlawfully discriminated against the recruitment of white men to boost diversity targets.
Then there is the woeful lack of equipment, which means that new recruits would find themselves deprived of vital training even if they did succeed in being enlisted. It is not inconceivable that recruits could face the same privations as their forebears in the 1930s, when severe shortages of rifles resulted in recruits parading with broomsticks. In 2015, Germany’s Bundeswehr suffered this ignominious fate when its soldiers used broomsticks to conceal their lack of heavy machine guns.
The threats facing Europe today are too pressing for our military to be reduced to this state. The priority must be for ministers to end the wokery and get back to the infinitely more serious business of preparing for war.