BRITAIN is facing wars in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea in five years but there are still no plans to grow the Army, Grant Shapps said today.
The world is now in a “pre-war” phase, ahead of a possible World War Three, the Defence Secretary warned.
In a major speech at Lancaster House in London, he urged Britain and its allies to ramp up defence spending, insisting: “The era of the peace dividend is over.”
He said the Ukraine war had put the future of the world order at stake.
China was watching to see if the West lost patience, he added.
Iran had enriched uranium — used in nuclear weapons — to 83.7 per cent.
And North Korea was threatening to expand its arsenal.
Mr Shapps was unable to say when the Government would hit its target of spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence but would “strive to reach it as soon as possible”.
He said there were no plans to reverse Boris Johnson’s cuts that took the Army to 73,000 personnel, its smallest in 300 years.
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He added: “I haven’t changed the plans. A lot of people confuse and conflate troop numbers with how well defended you are.”
In his brief Tory leadership bid, Mr Shapps called for a defence spend of three per cent of GDP.
Today, he said the country faced tough choices “on the future of our national defences”.
He added: “The choice is stark. Some people, especially on the Left, have a tendency to talk Britain down.
“They believe Britain can no longer have the power to influence world events.
“I passionately believe these unpatriotic, Britain-belittling doom-mongers are simply wrong.”
Senior defence sources said Rishi Sunak was reluctant to fund the MoD at the expense of others.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Vladimir Putin has become a growing threat to world order.
On top of almost two years of brutal warfare a leaked military report yesterday showed the despot’s step-by-step plane to bring the West to the brink of World War Three.
The secret documents described Putin’s possible “path to conflict” which reaches its climax in 2025 on “Day X” when half a million Nato and Russian soldiers face each other.
The bombshell files, obtained by Bild from Germany’s Ministry of Defence, lay out exactly how the Kremlin boss might be preparing for a hybrid attack on Nato as early as next winter and a full-blown war next summer.
It could begin with a spring offensive against Ukraine as he mobilises hundreds of thousands of new soldiers in just a few weeks time.
The dictator’s danger is found not just in his bloodthirsty attempts to absorb Ukraine into Russia – but in his relationships.
Putin’s alliance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has seen the eerily similar pair bond over their shared views about the West.
Just weeks ago Putin unleashed North Korean rockets in Ukraine, killing hundreds in an unprecedented development.
And Kim even told Putin that he was sure that the Russian army would triumph against “evil” at a decadent Bond-villain-style banquet.
After labelling South Korea his “principle enemy”, Kim threatened to start a war – and the nuclear weapons at his disposal are not to be ignored.
Another dictator sparking fear amongst world leaders is China’s Xi Jinping.
Last year, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Vladimir Putin was “not even close” to how dangerous Xi is.
And reminiscent of Putin’s desires to take Ukraine, Xi’s chilling New Year address stated that Taiwan’s “reunification” with the “motherland” is a “historical inevitability”.
Observers believe Beijing may try to “strangle” the island using a blockade – while others suggest it will launch a large-scale military landing on Taiwan’s “red beaches”.
And one small “mistake” could propel the world terrifyingly close to the edge of global catastrophe, a retired British Army general warned.
The threat caused by Iran has become ever more present in recent months since the October 7 massacre in Israel sparked a fresh war between Netanyahu’s forces and terror group Hamas.
Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon have all been dragged into the conflict as have the UK and US.
And Iran’s terror proxies including Hezbollah and the Houthis have gone up against Israel, the US and UK as fears of an all-out war in the Middle East grow.
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One former US ambassador warned the Sun that Tehran’s murderous regime is hellbent on destruction far beyond the Middle East – and it poses the greatest current threat to world order.
Mark Wallace told The Sun that obtaining a nuclear weapon is just one strand in Tehran’s blood-soaked global campaign to reign terror and “the UK is firmly in its sights”.