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Russia is losing in Ukraine, says head of UK armed forces

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Russia is losing, the free world is winning, and the war in Ukraine is only going to get harder for Moscow’s forces as they run short of ammunition, the head of Britain’s armed forces said on Wednesday.

“Russia has failed and will continue to fail in all its war aims,” Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, said in a speech in London, adding that the invasion of Ukraine would “only get worse for Russia”.

Moscow’s “cupboard is bare”, he said. While more than 50 allies support Kyiv with “political resolve . . . backed by cash, ammunition [and] armaments”, Russian forces were running out of munitions and this was “diminishing” their ability to conduct successful ground offensives, the UK’s most senior military officer added.

Russia has pounded Ukraine’s front lines with artillery barrages for months and while a recent slackening suggested Moscow was running low on ammunition, few military analysts believe its stocks are about to run out.

According to a recent estimate by Estonia’s military intelligence, Russian forces have fired 10mn artillery rounds from its stock of 17mn shells at the start of the year.

Radakin’s comments were a rare positive assessment in an otherwise gloomy speech at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, in which he surveyed an array of global threats, describing them as “a generational struggle for the future of the global order”.

Iran is supplying attack drones to Russia, North Korea has launched more than 60 ballistic missiles which “in a normal year would astonish the world”, and China is becoming increasingly authoritarian. “These are extraordinarily dangerous times,” he told the audience.

“None of these challenges exists in isolation,” Radakin said. “Each represents a test of the rules which have guaranteed global security and enabled the spread of prosperity and opportunity throughout our lifetimes.”

The good news, Radakin said, was the west’s collective response to the Russian threat. This has brought “real victory within our grasp” and sent a powerful message to other authoritarian states. The bad news, he said, is that confronting these threats requires additional investment.

Radakin’s plug for more military spending comes as the UK government is working on a “refreshed” version of its high level “Integrated Review” (IR) of foreign policy, which was launched before Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

While the government has pledged to keep the UK’s Nato commitment of spending 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence it has distanced itself from promises by former prime minister Liz Truss to increase spending to 3 per cent as a result of the Ukraine conflict.

“How do we manage a weaker but more vindictive Russia over the long term? Are we going to remain committed to a global outlook? And if so, how much do we invest?” Radakin said. These are “questions which the IR refresh will seek to answer”.

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