Sending tanks and artillery guns to Ukraine to bolster the country’s war effort will leave the British Army weaker, its chief has said.
Gen Sir Patrick Sanders said that Ukraine would put British donations to “good use” in the fight with Russia, in an internal message sent to troops and seen by the BBC.
But he warned that it would also leave the British Army “temporarily weaker”.
The UK has committed to sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks to the frontline.
Around 30 AS90s – large, self-propelled guns – are also expected to be delivered.
Gen Sanders, head of the British Army, told troops that ensuring Russia’s defeat in Ukraine “makes us safer”.
But he said it was vital the Army’s “warfighting capability” was restored at pace.
“There is no doubt that our choice will impact our ability to mobilise the army against the acute and enduring threat Russia presents and meet our Nato obligations,” he added.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace highlighted the need to reinvest in the military.
He told MPs his department was now considering whether the Army needed a larger tank fleet in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Wallace added he would “also build on the Army’s modernisation programme at pace, specifically on artillery”.
Gen Sanders’ memo to the troops is as much a message to the Treasury to deliver on the government’s pledge to modernise the Army.
He makes clear the Army is making sacrifices to help Ukraine win the war.
And while he believes that it is worthwhile, it comes at a cost. So Gen Sanders wants to see the investment needed to rebuild it. In that goal he has the support of the defence secretary.
The Ministry of Defence has pledged to spend £24bn on re-equipping the Army over the next decade. But much of that new kit – including upgraded tanks and new armoured vehicles – will not be fully operational until the early 2030s.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the decision to send the Challenger 2 tanks “will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners”.
Built in the late 1990s, the Challenger tank is more than 20 years old, but it will be the most modern tank at Ukraine’s disposal
While the donation alone is not considered a game-changer, it is hoped that the UK’s move will inspire other countries to donate more modern equipment to help Ukraine.
Additional reporting by James Gregory.