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Britaun’s Armed Forces risk being left behind by big-spending countries such as Russia, the head of the Army will warn today. General Sir Nick Carter will tell military experts that Russia already “boasts capabilities the UK would struggle to match”.

He will signal the need to beef up the UK’s cyber-warfare capability in light of the growing threat from terrorists and rival states to spread confusion and unrest. The Chief of the General Staff will say: “The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.”

His warning comes as Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson comes under pressure from Chancellor Philip Hammond for another round of defence cuts. Proposals have included reducing the size of the Special Forces, cutting the Royal Marines by 1,000, axing its two amphibious warfare ships and slashing the size of the Army.

The Army is already struggling to meet its target of 82,000 trained regulars – its smallest in 200 years – but General Carter will point to the wide range of threats now facing the military. He will warn that Russia is building an “increasingly aggressive and expeditionary force”.

This includes its long-range capability as evidenced by a 26-missile strike on Syrian targets from warships 1,000 miles away in the Caspian Sea. He will refer to simulated attacks carried out by Russia across northern Europe from its Baltic base in Kaliningrad, aas well as stress the “more creative” ways some states are ready to exploit and engage in cyber-warfare as well as other expedients. For example, the Russian annexation of the Crimea from the Ukraine was marked by regular troops being deployed without any identifying markings on their uniforms.

The general will tell the Royal United Services Institute think-tank: “Our ability to pre-empt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries. State-based competition is now being employed in more novel and increasingly integrated ways and we must be ready to deal with them.”

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