Britain has to ‘think carefully’ about conscripting hundreds of thousands of Brits to fight Russia, a former top British Army officer has warned.
It came after the head of the British Army warned in a speech yesterday that a ‘citizen army’ will be needed for any direct confrontation with Vladimir Putin.
Not three weeks of 2024 have passed, and the governments of Estonia, Sweden and now the UK have already warned their respective nations that the prospect of large-scale war is on the horizon.
Although he stopped short of backing conscription, general Sir Patrick Sanders said preparing for war against Russia should be a ‘whole-of-nation’ undertaking, including what he described as ‘national mobilisation’.
However Sir Richard, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 2011 to 2014, suggested that conscription might well be required, because a large enough volunteer force would ‘need a huge amount of effort and money which is probably not there.’
‘I think Gen Sanders is absolutely right to be talking about a citizen volunteer army. I think now, against all the odds though, is the time to start thinking the unthinkable and really having to think quite carefully about conscription if we are to deliver the numbers needed,’ he told Sky News.
But at the same time Whitehall is believed to be looking at ways of training large amounts of volunteers quickly, based on work done with Ukrainian troops.
British forces have trained some 30,000 Ukrainians, including civilians, on UK soil under Operation Interflex, the multinational support mission backing the country as it continues to push back against the two-year-long Russian invasion.
But what do these options mean for the average Brit? Here we try to answer some of the basic questions about what the start of World War III might look like.
How would war be declared?
Strictly speaking, war does not have to even be declared for one to happen. A famous example of it occurring was in 1939 when Neville Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in his famous radio broadcast.
But the United Kingdom has not formally declared war on anyone since 1942 (when it declared war on Thailand, a Japanese ally), despite having sent forces to fight in numerous conflicts – including the Falklands, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The prime minister of the day has the authority to order UK forces to deploy for battle using what are known as Royal Prerogative powers. They are not obliged to seek permission to do so first from parliament.
Rishi Sunak last week and this week ordered RAF fighters to attack targets in Yemen. While he informed Labour and the Commons Speaker before the first attack, he did not have to and did so as a courtesy.