Mail Online: LONDON, England – 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.
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.
Asked whether he was saying there was a ‘real threat’ of World War Three, Sir Nick replied: “I’m saying it’s a risk and we need to be conscious of those risks.
“And that’s why Remembrance matters, because if you look back at history, hopefully you learn from their experience and you make sure that you’re very cautious about how you manage the sorts of regional conflicts that we see playing out in the world today.”
In a separate interview with Times Radio, Sir Nick admitted to being uneasy about the prospect of the military being drafted in to police coronavirus lockdowns in the UK.
He said forcing ‘people to get off the streets’ is “not what the military is for”.
Sir Nick added: “I would be leery about getting involved in all of that.
“There are others who are better qualified to do it, I would suggest.”
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.
Sir Nick also said some veterans might find Remembrance Sunday a lonely experience this year due to the coronavirus restrictions in place.
He told the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show the guidelines would be ‘particularly tough on our veterans’.
“They traditionally have had the opportunity to get together and talk about their memories and their reflections, but equally to strut their stuff,” he said.
“It is a proud moment for so many people, so to do it in a sort of rather lonely way, perhaps on your doorstep for a couple of minutes, is going to be tough for a lot of people.”
Asked whether people should go to their local memorial, Sir Nick replied: ‘My advice is, I guess, to follow the Government guidance, which is to stay at home sadly but to be on your front doorstep.’
His comments came after the Bank of England pumped another £150billion into the economy when lockdown began on Thursday – amid fears that it will send GDP plummeting and destroy jobs.
The Bank increased its mammoth bond-buying programme to £895billion, warning that UK plc’s recovery was already ‘softening’ before the squeeze was announced on Saturday.
Interest rates are being kept on hold at the record low of 0.1 percent.
The economy is projected to shrink by 2 percent between October and December, but the Monetary Policy Committee said the UK is likely to dodge a double-dip recession.
GDP is now predicted to be 11 percent lower this year in real terms, worse than the 9.5 percent it suggested in August.
The Bank’s central expectation is that the economy will not regain its level from last year until the start of 2022.
The MPC said unemployment is set to peak at 7.75 percent in the second quarter of next year – with government bailouts pushing back the worst of the impact from the 7.5 percent high the Bank had anticipated in this quarter.
The current rate is 4.5 pe cent, suggesting another million people face losing their jobs.
In July, researchers from the University of Sydney created a detailed model of the global economy to quantify the damage caused by COVID-19.
The sector to be hit the hardest is the travel industry – due to cancelled flights and countries closing their borders to visitors – particularly in Asia, Europe and the US.
In fact this loss of global connectivity “triggered an economic contagion”, causing major disruptions to trade, tourism, energy and finance sectors, the team said.
The global losses already felt are likely to increase as lockdown measures continue, but lifting them too soon could ‘lead to even more severe and prolonged economic impacts’, the researchers said.