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            The secret may be out.  To be appointed as the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), it could be argued that you only need three attributes.  Firstly, you have to be a futurist.  You also have to be able to manage chronic schizophrenia, whilst possessing exceptional communication skills.  General Sir Patrick Sanders,1 the current incumbent (at least for the next few months), demonstrates the first two attributes in spades.  When it comes to national security however, his grasp of the third skill is yet to be tested on the section of the British population that really matters.   To a greater or lesser degree, everyone who’s held the Army’s highest appointment has demonstrated the ability to look into the future and convince an ambivalent audience of what’s coming.  An ability that Terry Pratchett described as “hallucinating gently for a living.”2 Whilst we don’t expect CGS’ to have the imagination of C.J. Ballard, we do depend on them to see a little further into the future than the political masters they’re obliged to serve.  Their schizophrenic assessment of this future constantly oscillates between pessimism (represented by an imp which sits on their left shoulder) and optimism (embodied in a counter-balancing urchin on their right elbow).  The pessimist in them sees risk, which ultimately threatens to undermine the values of our liberal democratic way of life.  Their opposing optimist believes that there are foils to our enemy’s malignant intent, and, if certain actions are taken, our values and sovereignty can be safeguarded.

Now that General Sanders has seen into the future, weighed the risks and identified credible mitigations, he’s got to communicate his plan to an internal and external audience – and here’s where his problem lies.  This editorial examines what CGS has said, to whom and why.  It will outline some of his challenges and frictions – many of which are outside of his immediate control.  Finally, if he’s to find a credible approach that mitigates what he perceives to be our greatest risk, it will explore perhaps his main challenge – engaging and persuading the generations that will have to agree to go to war.

CGS; the Schizophrenic Futurist

            Over the past 18 months, CGS has been persistently communicating his vision of a dangerous future.  Amongst a myriad of his envisaged threats (pessimistic imp talking), he’s foreseen the existential danger presented by a revanchist Russia, bent on protecting Russian speaking populations outside of its borders by restoring what President Putin has called ‘historic territories.’  Putin’s means of achieving his aim, is through the employment of hard power to defeat what CGS describes as “our system and way of life.”3  Ultimately, Mykhailo Podolyak, President Zelensky’s advisor, identifies that “Russia [Putin] is not fighting for land.  It is fighting for its right to live in the past,”4 therefore, directly opposing liberal democratic values which advocate the right of nations to pursue their own futures.  In June 2022, General Sanders told a RUSI audience that he was “the first CGS since 1941 to take up [his] position in the shadow of a major state-on-state war in Europe.”5  To mitigate this threat (listening to his optimistic gabbing urchin), he outlined the need to, “mobilise to prevent war.”6  He was keen to emphasize that whilst we are not at war, and he was not advocating a rush to war, “we must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.”7  He likened the UK’s contemporary position to that of 1937, and whilst there are parallels, there are also some stark differences, especially across the industrial base.  His stated primary focus is Operation MOBILISE – “a new reality, a race to mobilise” involving the regulars, reserves, civilians and industry.  With this mobilised force, he advocates “deterrence through denial”, by meeting strength with strength and contesting the seizing of NATO territory rather than launching counteroffensives.8  He’s emphasized the need for combined arms synergy and mass, with a focus on urban combat, the utilisation of emerging technologies and re-thinking how we fight.  Finally, and many will argue that there’s nothing new here, he’s preparing to restructure the Army in an effort to “engage in warfare at its most violent.”9

The General. Photo: MOD.

            This was CGS’ first widely publicised exposition of the brave new world we have to face.  As well as being a futurist and schizophrenic, he’s also a realist, and is on the record as recognising that “obviously our Army has to be affordable”10  – exposing a significant economic tension in a country that, in real terms, is poorer in 2024 than it was in 2019.  He also recognises that industry ramp up takes time, and our acquisition process needs to be re-tuned to meet near-term demands.  Hold on to your hat, yes, another restructuring of Defence’s approach to procurement, underpinned by an even closer relationship with industry (those who have attended Staff Colleges within the last 30 years maybe rolling their eyes at this seasonal improvement initiative).  Whilst this promise of a ‘new’ state-industrial relationship is encouraging, depressingly, it’s not new to an older audience.  To pull off this national mobilisation, he’s stipulated that we need a generational effort.  This was perhaps his first hint at the need to mobilise a citizen army.  At DSEI in 2023 he went further, emphasizing the urgency for action by declaring that “events show, we are now [a 21st century] pre-war generation.”11  More of this generational challenge later, but with regards to industry (getting even closer), CGS frequently refers to the Land Industrial Strategy, the establishment of a Land Capability Campaigns Office and Army and Industry/Exports Office, which aims to get the Army closer to industry – time will tell, but there are significant strategic, financial and commercial challenges to overcome.

Planning Timeline

            By examining the Defence Secretary’s and CGS’ keynote speeches and explanations to the House of Commons (HoC) Defence Committee, an outline mobilisation planning timeline can be identified.    With the Defence Secretary believing that 2024 must be considered “an inflexion point,”12 CGS has emphasised that the Army’s “renewal must flourish over the next 4-5 years.”13 Initially, with significant investment, especially in stockpiles, he envisages that “it would be ready to fight with what it has in the course of the next two or three years”14 and in this third year (by 2027), he believes that “it must be credible to talk of a British Army of 120,000, folding in our reserve and strategic reserve [Regular Reserve].”15  He went further, and explained the need to establish a structure that allowed balanced growth which delivered, “a plan for expansion and for generating a second and third echelon,”16  in-step with a renewal of “our nation’s Land Industrial Base.”17 Unsurprisingly, CGS’ timeline chimes with other NATO heads.  Denmark’s defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, believes Russia could test the Alliance “within a three to five-year period”18 while Germany’s defence committee chair, Strack-Zimmermann, forecasts an attack on “a NATO country within five to eight years.”19  These timelines are likely driven by a myriad of intelligence assessments but the open press underlines the critical mobilisation milestones because “While Russia’s army is heavily deployed in Ukraine and has suffered huge losses, most western officials expect it would be able to reconstitute its forces within five to six years,” in 2024 alone, Russia is expected to mobilise another 400,000 men.20

            Considering his timeline for transformation, CGS’ future mobilisation aspirations face significant difficulties, perhaps best summarised as internal and external challenges and frictions.

 Internal Challenges/Frictions

            Immediately following CGS’ speech at Twickenham, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson’s defensive rebuff contradicted the level of future risk, declaring that hypothetical scenarios of a future potential conflict were not helpful and went on to rule out a conscription model for the Army.  This half-formed, misdirected response exposes the internal frictions across SW1 and the wider national defence arena.  Firstly, CGS didn’t outline a requirement for conscription, indeed, he’s known to oppose it.  Secondly, and this might come as a surprise to No.10; since antiquity, all long-term defence contingency planning has been based on hypotheticals, referred to generically as assumptions.  At some time or other, many staff officers and soldiers would have poured over elements of Defence Planning Assumptions (DPAs), a unique torture described by Ernie Pyle as “a man-killing strain of work and responsibility.”21  Amongst other variables, they assume enemy generic force ratios, combat effectiveness, dispositions, capabilities, environments and allow wargaming to be undertaken to calculate probabilities.  So, contrary to No.10 pretentious spokespersons, hypotheticals are useful for Defence contingency planning – in fact, they’re often all we have to work with.  General Sir Jim Hockenhull explained this useful process where “As a strategic planner, I was taught that if you make an assumption you always make a contingency plan.”22  Unwittingly, what the PM’s spokesperson exposed was the internal frictions that CGS is facing, and questions how, if they are not discussing hypotheticals, No.10 plans for potential future strategic shocks.  Meanwhile, whilst No.10 fiddles, NATO planners at the Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm are burning staff hours.  Their working hypothesis is how NATO would deploy its formations around Europe in response to a conflict.23  Clearly, NATO haven’t informed No.10 of their time wasting on hypothetical future war scenarios.

            The second significant internal challenge is the UK’s ability to recruit and retain enough skilled personnel within the Armed Forces.  These personnel are not only essential for the nation’s immediate warfighting readiness, but also its strategic readiness – cumulatively, they constitute the Army’s human resource warfighting resilience.  CGS’ problem is that whilst the security situation has worsened, so the Army has experienced a net outflow of personnel.24  CGS recognises that “regular armies start wars; reserve armies end them”25 and so, while the outflow from both cohorts needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency, a renewed effort on enlarging the reserve is required.  Today, the strategic reserve (Regular Reserve), estimated to be circa 200,000 strong, needs to be tracked, and presumably triaged, to ascertain their deployability status.  To deliver the desired second and third echelons, the HoC Defence Committee recognised a need where “The nation has a duty – [a] whole societal approach.”26  This chimes with CGS’ view for the UK requiring a citizen army  but adds no clarity to delivering the vision.   With Capita (referred to by the Chair of the Defence Committee as Crapita) reporting that in 2022-23 it recruited only 68% of the number of personnel the Army said it needed, and three quarters into the 2023-24 recruitment year it was witnessing significant shortfalls,27 it is hard to see how a credible baseline structure for expansion can be established within the given timelines.  CGS has foreseen the potential battle against Russia but he (and his successor) are now in what the First Sea Lord describes as a home front “battle for national talent”28 – more of this complex issue in ‘external challenges,’ but to triumph, every available lever will need to be pulled, including marginal gain initiatives such as allowing beards.

Pro-Russians ride on a truck in Donetsk, Ukraine, Sunday, May 25, 2014. A convoy of an armored personnel carrier and seven trucks carrying several hundred heavily armed men drove through central Donetsk early Sunday afternoon and gunmen got out of the trucks, stood to attention and gave shots in the air in jubilation as a crowd of several thousand supporters cheered them and chanted: “Heroes!”. Ukraine’s critical presidential election got underway Sunday under the wary scrutiny of a world eager for stability in a country rocked by a deadly uprising in the east. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

            The third internal challenge is exposed by Professor Michael Clarke, where “The Ukraine war has brought the spectre of industrial warfare back to Europe in ways that have been relatively surprising.”29  This strategic surprise has highlighted the dichotomy between industry’s contemporary lean commercial practices, optimised for efficiency (and over eagerly adopted by MOD budget managers), against the demands for credible stockpiles to build-in resilience to sustain high-intensity warfighting.  James Heappey, the Minister for Armed Forces, described the parlous situation where we now need to put “back into the military inventory all the things that we have not had to worry about since the cold war.”30  It now seems just-in-timelogistics, which encapsulated commercially efficient factory to foxhole support and supply regimes, have had their time.  Corporate entities, supplying military specials and general materiel, have understandably concentrated on their cash flow and shareholder profit.  They adhere to capitalist market principles, where competitive edge is the commercial driving force and profits are king.

The avoidable result has been exposed by the Defence Committee where “it has become clear since February 2022 that UK (and indeed European) stockpiles of munitions were far below the level required to counter with certainty a threat from the Russian Army.” 31  Naively, the HoC Defence Committee have been alarmed by the paucity in UK Defence stockpiles (not a surprise to those who have worked in the supply chain over the last two decades) and want Defence to persuade industry to ramp up, in an effort to rebuild stockpiles for warfighting at scale.  Under this pressure, one shouldn’t underestimate how difficult resetting Defence’s relationship with industry is going to be.  The Defence Committee has harked back to how Britain responded to industrial ramp-up in WW232 and CGS has stated that today’s environment chimes with 1937.  In fact, CGS’ pessimistic imp should have warned him that the UK’s contemporary industrial situation is nothing like that of 1937 – it’s much worse.  In the mid-1930s, HMG actioned a scheme which provided new, latent production facilities; the ‘shadow factories.’  These facilities were built and equipped at tax-payers expense close to car manufacturers with the potential to ‘ramp-up’ production for the Air Ministry.  Specialist commercial contracts were agreed, based on prescribed production targets.  By 1939, twelve shadow factories were in operation, producing a range of products from airframes to munitions.33  It is likely that CGS, together with the other Service chiefs, would like to see HMG put similar financial skin into UK industrial mobilisation.  The Defence Secretary has affirmed that “we must make our industry more resilient to empower us to re-arm, re-supply and innovate far faster than our opponents.”34  It’s not clear if a similar level of financial commitment to British industry in the mid-1930s is what Defence is advocating today, but without new money, it’s hard to envisage how we ensure British industry is more resilient.

19/10/2022. London, United Kingdom. Prime Minister Liz Truss announces The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP as Secretary of State for the Home Department. 10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

The PM’s and Defence Secretary’s promised increase in Defence spending of circa 2.5% by 2030 needs to be placed in context.  With the UK in technical recession, projections of fiscal policy beyond five years could be construed as a wish rather than a credible deliverable.  Even if such an increase could be realised, buying the delta out of the equipment plan and the establishment of an order of battle for receiving recent Army leavers back into special reserve cadres could consume much of the additional financial headroom.  If you’re a corporate CEO asking for a Board’s agreement to invest in industrial latency, you’re likely to want to extract some semblance of financial guarantee from HMG if you want to keep your job.  On the back of the declaration to commit 2.5% of GDP to defence by 2030, only time will tell if the “huge opportunity …for British industry,”35 championed by the Defence Secretary, is more than political rhetoric. Coupled to this continued impervious Defence/Industrial relationship is the annual declared need to revamp our procurement system.  In 2021 the Public Accounts Ctte described the system as “broken,”36 whilst the Defence Secretary in 2024 described the industrial base as “cutting-edge.” 37 As government finance and procurement need to fuse together with industry to deliver timely solutions, one can start to see the scale of this internal challenge.

            Taking the combined personnel and materiel challenges into consideration, it’s unsurprising that in 2023, General Nick Carter regarded the Army as the “weakest service” with “significant capability deficiencies.”38  With this in mind, to get a clearer picture of any improvement in the situation, any upward readiness trajectory needs to avoid being measured against the current low baseline and instead, be considered against the new warfighting demand signal.

External Challenges/Frictions

            CGS’ external challenges are also significant, exacerbated by many of his internal woes.  In January 2024, the Defence Secretary outlined the grand strategic challenge facing the UK when he identified the existential threats and the West’s response.  He pointed out that Putin had not only “got away with the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014” but has continued his illegal campaign in Ukraine.39  He also highlighted the danger of the international rules-based system being torn apart – identifying that 2024 “will be the greatest democratic year in history,” baselining a “dawn of a new era…Moving from a post-war to a pre-war world.”40 Of course, what Shapps was referring to was the contest between the Western sponsored, post WW2, structured international system, based on institutions such as Bretton Woods, and the myriad of existential threats.  Both Shapps and CGS are committed to shoring up this international order “to defend the democratic values that define us.”41   These democratic values have largely been built over eight decades from the post-WW2 foundations laid by the likes of the UN and Bretton Woods institutions – specifically, the IMF and World Bank.   The espoused liberal values of; freedom of speech, free and fair elections, access to free trade and protection of civil/human rights through the rule of law, are now established to various degrees across western societies.  Whilst the silent generation42 would argue that they fought for these values, and the Boomers and Gen X protected them, Gens Y, Z and Alpha might feel they’ve been left to pay for them.

These last three generations are the focus for CGS – the BROADSWORD callsigns, who, for ease of reference, will be referred to hereafter as Gen TikTok.  This generation troika are different to what has gone before.  In contrast to their predecessors, Gen TikTok are generally well educated, tech savvy, taught to question, have more flexible work regimes, are suspicious of institutional authority, have limited experience of a martial society, and therefore have little empathy with the Armed Forces.  They are digitally connected, yet more isolated and inward looking, and therefore challenging to reach.  Alarmingly for CGS, with a mass state education system that is largely agnostic to the military, an Army career seldom enters into their future employment considerations. They’ve seen previous generations burn-out, struggling to pay mortgages, watching an ageing society (which they are likely to have to pay for) who overly values promotion and tradition.  They believe that compared to their self-revered, nuclear family elders, they’ve cracked the social betterment code.  They understand their inherent agency, be it control over flexible working, 43 negotiating favourable deals, understanding their entitlements and questioning – everything.  They may still respect their elders (the ones who depleted the planet’s resources and believed wars could be justified) but they don’t automatically accept their senior’s vision of the future, nor necessarily their idea of liberal values – not without evidence.  If this evidence is forthcoming, you can be sure that within minutes of its release it’ll be verified by reaching into their mobile computer.  Be under no illusion, Gen TikTok live their lives without reference to the shrinking British Army and its values and standards.  In fact, they are likely to regard the Army as an Establishment institution.  Like many institutions, the young people at the core of the organisation are often treated as a sideshow in a grandeur performance whose rhythm is dictated by an elite.  Inconveniently for the elite, like Prisoner Number 6,44 Gen TikTok are ignorant of institutional etiquette, are untroubled with thoughts of collective loyalty and are too young to dwell on regrets or nostalgia.

Reflecting on the founding institutions which underpin the liberal values that CGS is attempting to protect, there is a moral problem for Gen TikTok.  The Bretton Woods institutions were, and remain, largely exclusive – hardly the guiding light for delivering equality and tackling global challenges.  In the 1970s and 1980s, it was rare for IMF money to flow to the developing world.  When it did, it was proven that transactions were only sanctioned to support a weakening banking system in the north.45  The fairness of the structure of the IMF can also be questioned by Gen TikTok where, last year, over 59% of the voting shares in the IMF were controlled by under 14% of the world’s population.46  Why does this matter to CGS?  Because the liberal values he believes need to be defended in the face of Russian aggression have to be upheld by Gen TikTok – they therefore need to believe in them.  These values are ensconced in institutions such as Bretton Woods – the same international financial institutions Tooze identifies “we rely [on] to anchor the global financial safety net [but which] face unanswerable questions about their legitimacy.”47  Wolf goes further, believing that “liberal democracy and global capitalism that were triumphant three decades ago have lost their legitimacy.”48   Who these western institutions really represent is therefore up for debate by Gen TikTok.

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This opaque area is important if CGS is asking for the mass mobilisation of a citizen army to defend western values.  The majority of the warfighting second and third echelons will have to come from Gen TikTok and they need persuading before they put aside their focus of self-fulfillment and offer their unlimited liability to the state.  Ordering them like steak is out of the question, authority to Gen TikTok does not always have the last word.  To be believable, any pithy Boomer retort that ‘even flawed western values are better than Putin’s alternative,’ needs to be a little more nuanced.  If CGS is looking for some mobilisation youthquake movement to realise the Army’s second and third echelons, he has to educate and encourage them to be of it before they can be persuaded to be in it.  As David Aaronovitch identified “It [war] isn’t about posing your better values against the enemy’s, but about undermining popular belief in their ‘truth.’49  If CGS can undermine Putin’s disinformation by messaging his ‘truth’ to Gen TikTok, then he might just be able to sell the necessity for a citizen army at the ‘ideas marketplace.’

As abhorrent as a war with Russia seems, liberal democracy may emerge stronger – but it will need to endure in a very different form, framed by Gen TikTok and better suited to managing bigger issues than regional conflicts.  How this potential opportunity is messaged to the future warfighters is CGS’ main challenge.  His call-to-arms could be centered on patriotism but he needs to tread carefully.  Gen TikTok are unlikely to respond to Putin’s crafted aggressive patriotism based on superiority, but rather one understood by Carol Ann Duffy as “an endearing patriotism…founded lastingly on love”50 – one that unites disparate generations.  As it stands, Gen TikTok look at their lot; longer working lives, soaring inequality, economic instability and climate catastrophe, and rightly believe they can do better.  Who would argue with them?  Whilst fighting for questionable western values is part of the debate, it’s not the only challenge CGS faces.

            Against any commitment to defend liberal democratic values, is the unfavourable human resource environment in which the UK finds itself.  Firstly, with a regular force liability of circa 73,000 struggling to be sustained, the task of meeting immediate threats or forming a structure for expansion, even within NATO, seems overambitious.  With a declining volunteer reserve, and the unknown status of the strategic reserve, even CGS’ 2027 target of having 120,000 personnel ready for operations looks overly demanding.  Whether any increase in the defence budget by 2030 will make any difference to the parlous state of the reserve is to be seen but one of the main reasons to doubt the ability to mobilise a citizen army is the nation’s demographic challenges.   According to official records, the birth rate in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest on record.51  This trend not only adds pressure to public finances and economic growth but has the potential to reduce the proportion of warfighting age adults available to serve in the Armed Forces.  Coupled to this dilemma, the high profile cases of misogyny and bullying within the Armed Forces, together with concerns over the standard of accommodation, and the true scale of the recruiting challenge is revealed.

So far, CGS has not engaged widely with Gen TikTok, preferring to ramp up the rhetoric with the high and midbrow; the likes of RUSI attendees in London and those that manufacturer the weapon systems of war at the home of English rugby.  Neither crowd are likely to contest the message or engage in future close combat.  This is not surprising, you have to bleed an idea slowly, release it through favourable optics and deliver alarming news softly.   The problem is that you don’t get the keys to the mobilisation kingdom by making speeches only to the high and mid-brow.  As has been seen with the press release post CGS’ Twickenham speech, even carefully targeted messaging at this level has the potential to make political masters uncomfortable in an election year.  Part of the problem is that CGS, his Boomers, Gen X and Millennial driven communications apparatus, seem to lack the ability to communicate to Gen TikTok.  His target audience live in the social-digital media age, they know how to manipulate it, and how it can manipulate them.  They are savvy consumers, understand product placement and have the capacity to verify and judge a broad range of policies, ideas and conspiracies, using their 24/7 pocket computer.  When vying for Gen TikTok’s attention, CGS is broadcasting across a congested bandwidth.

Challenger factory. Photo credit: army.mod.uk

If you declare ‘prepare for the worst’ to Gen TikTok, they are more likely to believe you’re referring to the climate crisis – and they may have a point.  They are likely to question the reasoning for fighting and dying for sovereignty when the topography in question is unlikely to support diverse biodiversity in the next fifty years – if humans don’t tackle the core problem now.  Their inconvenient logic is; why become preoccupied with fighting for a sector of the globe when it’s going to be part of a much bigger global dying process – the Sixth Extinction?  CGS therefore needs to provide some details of his citizen army vision for Gen TikTok to deliberate.  The danger is that if Boomers, Gen X and Millennials, declare that they know what’s coming, without explaining their rationale, then they’re sunk.  Based on the UK’s recent executive decisions to go to wars of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pre-TikTok generation’s logic looks decidedly questionable.  The pressure on Parliament not to engage over Syria in 2013 was a watershed moment in conflict management, and the trend is a growing questioning of the logic of committing to a fight.  Of course, sustaining such an entrenched view with the spectre of a revanchist Russia is dangerous.  CGS may point to Ukraine as a stark indicator of what might come to pass in other areas of Europe, but, like the British in 1938, who were not prepared to fight for what Prime Minister Chamberlain described as ‘”A faraway country of which we know nothing,”52 he has to construct a persuasive narrative and not presume that Gen TikTok will automatically rally to the colours.  In sum, their increased agency means they are less likely to follow contemporary leadership by default.

The promise of increased Defence funding has already been touched upon, but with financial pressures on the NHS, welfare, education and the environment, it is challenging for Gen TikTok to envisage how these vital concerns are to be addressed; whilst also establishing a credible structure for an expansion of a well-trained Army.  Gen TikTok are just as likely to demand a reformed social contract, which addresses national and global challenges, before they commit to addressing the sound of distant gunfire.  Given the timeline, the danger to national security is that CGS may not be able to sell the fact that mobilisation doesn’t favour latecomers.

As part of the generations who Gen TikTok may believe didn’t get things right the last time, like the western liberal institutions, CGS may be regarded as part of an elite whose legitimacy is up for debate.  Perhaps what might contribute to persuading Gen TikTok that the Russian threat is real is an extension of CGS in post.  Such a move could allow a coherent mobilisation programme to be delivered.  If we are to believe that we are in a pre-war period, it seems reasonable that central government should adopt some pre-war administrative planning.  Instead of adhering to default Military Secretariat Army career profiles, like General Alanbrooke53 before him, General Sanders needs to be retained for continuity, be made responsible for delivering the second and third echelons of the Army and be held to account.  To show commitment in this area will likely demonstrate to Gen TikTok that HMG and the Armed Forces are getting real.  A longer tenure in appointment would allow CGS to adopt a program approach to mobilisation, take the temperature of society at regular intervals and potentially allow him to communicate to a diverse audience over a longer period of time.

            In summary, it’s clear that the dystopian image of Russia triggering Article 5 has not gained unified traction across SW1.  Challenging CGS’ future vision from within HMG has made national mobilisation against the assumed planning timelines more difficult.  Internal challenges of recruitment and underfunding have exacerbated the external challenges of negative demographics and greater Gen TikTok agency, whose focus may be more global than regional.  The perverse feature of CGS’ vision is that if the UK, as part of a NATO response, mobilizes in time and deters Russia, it is not inconceivable that future generations will be consigned to a second Cold War.  The disturbing alternative is that Russia will trigger Article 5.  If this is the case, while CGS, long retired by then, may be recognised as the canary in the mine, he will be judged on how effective he was at communicating to the BROADSWORD warfighters, and mobilising them for Britain’s defence.  CGS has previously referred to Article 5 as NATO’s big gambling blind. Unfortunately, Putin likes card tricks and has been known to enjoy a flutter – he may just call Brussel’s bluff and see what NATO has.  In fairness to CGS, sometimes you have to recognise that you have limited options when you’re playing chicken with a blind man – CGS has to message that he’s not bluffing, to Gen TikTok and to the dictator in the Kremlin.

Cover photo by Corporal Rebecca Brown RLC – https://www.army.mod.uk/media/18935/aponec-official-20220811-050-026.jpg, OGL 3, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121643003

Neil Llewellyn

Neil Llewellyn joined the Regular British Army in 1983 as an infantry soldier. He attended RMAS and commissioned in 1991. He has deployed to various operational theatres, served with airborne forces, HQ DSF and attended the Advanced Command and Staff Course. He retired from the Army in 2019 after five years as the Assistant Director Logistic Support in Army Headquarters. This article reflects his thoughts and experiences as the SO1 Personel on the General Staff whilst working for two CGS'. He now works as a freelance researcher.


  1. General Sir Patrick Sanders KCB, CBE, DSO ADC.
  2. Cited in Rob Wilkins, Terry Pratchett; A Life with Footnotes, London, Penguin Books, 2022, p.22.
  3. Cited in Henry Foy, Guy Chazan, John Paul Rathbone, ‘Alarm mounts over Moscow’s hostile stance towards west,’ Financial Times Weekend, 17/18 February 2024, p.5.
  4. Ivan Krastev, ‘Is Ukraine’s future West Germany?’ Financial Times Weekend, Opinion, World Affairs, 17/18 February 2024, p.11.
  5. General Sir Patrick Sanders, RUSI Land Warfare Conference, 28 June 2022.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. General Sir Patrick Sanders, DSEI 2023 Keynote Speech, ExCel London, 12 September 2023.
  12. Grant Shapps, Defending Britain from a more dangerous world, Lancaster House Speech, London, 15 January 2024.
  13. Ibid.
  14. HoC Defence Ctte, Armed Forces Readiness, HC26, Q222 dated 7 November 2023.
  15. Cited in ‘Britain must train citizen army, military chief warns’, BBC Online, 24 January 2024 reporting on CGS’ speech at the Defence iQ International Armoured Vehicles Conference at Twickenham.
  16. HoC Defence Ctte, Armed Forces Readiness, HC26, Q228 dated 7 November 2023.
  17. DSEI 2023.
  18. Henry Foy, Guy Chazan, John Paul Rathbone, p.5.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ernie Pyle, Brave Men, Henry Holt and Co. Inc, 1944, p.306.
  22. HoC Armed Forces Readiness, HC26, Q367, dated 22 November 2023.
  23. Cited in Foy, Chazan and Rathbone, p.5.
  24. The Haythornwaite Review 2022, cited in HoC Defence Ctte Ready for War?, p.30, para 73 dated 30 January 2024.
  25. Ibid, Q272.
  26. Ibid, Q276.
  27. HoC Defence Ctte, Ready for War?, First Report of Session 2023-24, para 74, dated 30 January 2024.
  28. Ibid, para 76.
  29. HoC Defence Ctte, Ready for War?, First Report of Session 2023-24, para 41, dated 30 January 2024.
  30. HoC Defence Ctte, Armed Forces Readiness, HC26 dated 22 November 2023.
  31. Cited in the HoC Defence Ctte report, Ready for War?, First Report of Session 2023-24, 30 January, p.11, para.20.
  32. Ibid, Q382.
  33. Further information on these factories can be found in David Rogers, Shadow Factories: Britain’s Production facilities during the Second World War, Solihull, Helion and Company Ltd, 2016.
  34. Grant Shapps, Defending Britain from a more dangerous world, Lancaster House Speech, 15 January 2024.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Cited in the HoC Defence Ctte, Armed Forces Readiness, HC26, Q389 dated 22 November 2023.
  37. Grant Shapps, Defending Britain from a more dangerous world, Lancaster House Speech, London, 15 January 2024.
  38. Ibid, p.19, para 46.
  39. Grant Shapps, Defending Britain from a more dangerous world, Lancaster House Speech, 15 January 2024.
  40. Ibid
  41. RUSI Land Warfare Conference, 28 June 2022.
  42. The Silent Generation 1928-1945. Baby Boomers 1946-1964. Generation X 1965-1980. Millennials/Gen Y 1981-1996. Generation Z/iGen 1997-2010.  Generation Alpha 2010 onwards.
  43. J. Foster, ‘We’re not lazy – just smarter’, The generational work divide strikes again, cited in Grazia, 5 February 2024, p.28.  EY suggests that 40% of Gen Z have orchestrated a subsidiary salary to their main income- Alphas are likely to follow this trend.
  44. The Prisoner was a 1967 long-running British TV show.
  45. Adam, Tooze. The IMF is an anchor adrift in a changing world economy, Financial Times Weekend, Opinion, 27/28 January 2024, p.9.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Martin, Wolf.  The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, Penguin Random House UK, 2024, p.3.
  49. Cited in David Aaronovitch, How to deal with disinformation, The Financial Times Weekend, Books, Life and Arts, 2/3 March 2024, p.9.  Aaronovitch was reviewing Peter Pomerantsev’s book; How to Win an Information War: The Propagandist Who Outwitted Hitler, Faber, 2024.
  50. Cited in Susan, Hill, Jacob’s room has many books, London, Profile Books Ltd, 2018, p.16.
  51. Valentia, Romei. Birth rate hits new low and adds to economic pressures, Financial Times Weekend, National, 24/25 February 2024, p.2.
  52. A narrative coined by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on 27 September 1938, when referring to Czechoslovakia during the prelude to World War II.
  53. General Alanbrooke was retained in appointment as Chief of the Imperial General Staff for nearly five years (1941-1946) by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to help steer Britain’s strategic planning through WW2.

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