Internal war threatens to tear the army apart

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Mourning the death of a esteemed colleague is not the best way to start your tenure as the new chief of the British armed forces. But Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, who will take over as Chief of the Defense Staff next month, is well aware of the many challenges he will face as the British military undergoes its most radical overhaul. since the end of the cold war.

The tragic death of Major General Matthew Holmes, the highly decorated Royal Navy officer whose funeral took place yesterday at Winchester Cathedral, certainly highlights the hardships Sir Tony is likely to face as he seeks to implement the comprehensive reform program of the military ensemble in the Integrated Government Review, which was published earlier this year.

The aim of this ambitious program is to enable the UK to defend itself against the rapidly changing environment of the modern battlefield, whether it is responding to cyber attacks or protecting satellites from threats posed by Hostile states.

To achieve this ambitious goal, traditional combat units, such as those employed in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, are undergoing a major overhaul to make them better equipped to deal with future threats.

Sir Tony’s appointment therefore owes a great deal to his ability to grasp the challenges ahead, a quality that was very evident in the role he played in securing the controversial Aukus deal for the Great Britain and the United States equip Australia with a new fleet of nuclear reactors. motorized submarines.

Sir Tony’s willingness to exploit new opportunities certainly helped him secure the highest military post in the face of stiff opposition from other candidates, as it ultimately persuaded Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson he was the best man to establish, as Sir Tony himself put it, “a world force in the service of world Britain”.

Given the government’s emphasis on securing new global trade ties, it makes sense that a Royal Navy officer should take responsibility for protecting the country’s prosperity, with the vast majority of goods being shipped on the high seas. .

Mr Johnson, who is a strong supporter of the Navy’s two new 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, spoke enthusiastically of restoring Britain’s position as the ‘premier naval power in the world. ‘Europe’, a role he considers essential with the opening of new trade routes, in particular with the ‘shift’ to the Indo-Pacific region envisaged by the Integrated Review.

Nonetheless, the new military leader’s obvious enthusiasm for change, which has earned him the nickname “Radical Radakin”, is not universally shared by his colleagues and is said to have been the source of the bitter falling out between the late Major. -General Holmes and his former Navy boss.

As part of the overall Senior Service reorganization that took place during Sir Tony’s tenure as First Sea Lord, the Navy sought to redefine its relationship with the Royal Marines.

Over the past two decades, the Marines have won numerous accolades for their heroism in the predominantly land conflicts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, where they have suffered significant casualties, while the Navy Service was almost forgotten as his opportunities for frontline action were limited.

For future wars, however, the Navy plans to have a more integrated force, a force where it exerts tighter control over the Marines as it develops the concept of the Future Commando Force. But Sir Tony’s plans to make the post of Commanding General, the professional leader of the Royal Marines, a part-time role drew sharp criticism from several distinguished officers, including General Sir Gordon Messenger, who served as Vice Chief of the Defense Staff from 2016-19 and was one of many former high-ranking Marines who wrote to Sir Tony last January to outline their concerns.

Major General Holmes also fiercely resisted the change while in charge of the Marines, so he was removed from his post after two years, which was seen as a factor in his decision to take his own life. . Relations between the Navy and the Marines have not been helped by accusations from Navy sources that former Royal Marines – known as the “junta” in Navy circles – “are using this tragic event. for their own purposes ”.

This unfortunate situation is hardly the welcome Sir Tony needs as he prepares to assume his new responsibilities, and the uneasiness between the Navy and Marines must be resolved quickly in the interests of the military readiness of the nation.

With Chinese warplanes routinely violating Taiwanese airspace and Russian President Vladimir Putin holding Europe hostage over its energy supplies, the global threat environment is becoming increasingly threatening by the day.

To defend the interests of Great Britain, our armed forces must be at the top of their game, not eaten up by bitter joint rivalries.


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