The economic fallout during the coronavirus pandemic has made the prospect of World War Three ‘a risk’, the UK’s most senior military commander has said.
General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said Britain and the rest of the world would need to ‘learn’ from history and the international missteps that led to the previous world wars in the last century given the uncertainties caused by Covid-19.
Sir Nick made the comments when asked by Sky News in the run up to Remembrance Sunday whether he feared the global economic crisis brought on by coronavirus could lead to war.
The UK economy is projected to shrink by 2 per cent between October and December, while GDP is set to be 11 per cent lower this year in real terms.
A separate study showed that the coronavirus pandemic and measures to slow its spread had cost the global economy $3.8 trillion (£3 trillion), and put 147 million people out of work.
Sir Nick told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme there was a worry that the increase in regional conflicts playing out across the world could ramp up into ‘a full-blown war’, mirroring the run-up to the two world wars in the 20th century when a series of alliances between countries led to years of bloodshed.
The senior official argued that, with the world being ‘a very uncertain and anxious place’ during the pandemic, there was the possibility ‘you could see escalation lead to miscalculation’.
‘We have to remember that history might not repeat itself but it has a rhythm and if you look back at the last century, before both world wars, I think it was unarguable that there was escalation which led to the miscalculation which ultimately led to war at a scale we would hopefully never see again,’ said Sir Nick.
The First World War began in 1914 after the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand ultimately led to Europe’s major powers ending up in conflict.
And the Second World War was precipitated by a stand-off between the increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany and the UK.
War was ultimately declared by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1939 after Hitler’s forces invaded Poland.
Sir Nick Carter also said the armed forces understood the decision for a one-year Spending Review but admitted it was a ‘challenge’.
‘I think the challenge for us is the threat is evolving the whole time, the threat is modernising in certain quarters and we need to modernise as well, so for us it is a challenge,’ he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.
Sir Nick said no decisions had been made when asked whether he expected a smaller army to be the recommendation of the integrated military review, but said he expected more robots to be on the battlefield in future.
‘If I projected forward another 10 years, I think we should be in no doubt that warfare will look different, there will be robots on our battlefield in future – there already are today,’ he added.
‘Of course, that might change the manpower mix. I also think that reserves are very important as Covid has demonstrated, so I suspect it will be a very different mix of human beings and, for that matter, machines than it is today.’
He said he expected tanks would still be needed over the next 10 years amid rumours they are to be scrapped.