Euro crisis Britain's main security threat: military chief
The ongoing eurozone crisis is the single greatest threat to Britain's national security, the head of its armed forces warned Wednesday.
Chief of the defence staff General Sir David Richards also told the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank, that the Arab Spring uprisings could trigger Islamist unrest in Britain.
"I am clear that the single biggest strategic risk facing the UK today is economic rather than military," Richards said in his end of year analysis speech in London.
"This is why the eurozone crisis is of such huge importance," he added. "No country can defend itself if bankrupt."
Uncertainty in the Middle East also presented a real but lesser threat, he argued.
"(There is) the risk that the Arab awakening leads to fissures and internal conflict that could be exported, including militant Islamism," cautioned the general.
"They have diasporas reaching back to this country, as does Pakistan and other states struggling with instability."
Shrinking defence budgets have forced Britain to seek military alliances with a broad range of nations, a trend likely to continue, according to Richards.
"Already, our collaboration with countries in the Gulf and Africa has delivered results in the region for surprisingly little cost," he explained.
"Perhaps we should be focusing our defense relationships on these regions rather than competing for influence with many others, for example China or India."
Britain will withdraw 500 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, leaving 9,000 in the country.
The military chief assured the audience that coalition strategists were on track to deliver a successful drawdown.
"Perception is lagging reality by some 18 months," he said. "While we are, like a chess player, planning three or four moves ahead, we cannot signal our plans openly.
"That leaves the media frequently, and understandably, to ... frequently draw the wrong conclusion," he added.
© 2011 AFP