Prominent personalities involved in the 1982 Falklands Conflict have condemned British participation in a 60,000-strong European Rapid Reaction Force to which Britain has pledged a significant part of its three services.
General Sir Peter de la Billiere, who was Director of the elite SAS forces in 1982, and later Commander of British Forces in the Falkland Islands, and of the British Gulf War Forces, has warned that Britain's "armed forces are already stretched to the limit and , faced with severe recruiting and retention problems, it is far from certain that we can maintain our current commitments without a substantial increase in military budgets"
Writing in two mass circulation daily newspapers , the Daily Mail and the Sun, General de La Billiere, calls the creation of the new European Union force "a decision driven by political objectives rather than by military imperatives". He expresses concern that it could endanger or weaken NATO and Britain's special relationship with the United States.
These are points also stressed by Baroness Thatcher in a devastating attack on the European Force, and also by Lord Carrington, a former Defence Secretary and also Foreign Secretary who resigned over the Argentine invasion, and by two other former Defence Secretaries, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord (Dennis) Healey . What they do not mention, in expressing concern about alienating Washington, is the vital aid provided by the United States in the Falklands Conflict in intelligence information and provision of updated weaponry, including Harrier side-winder missiles.
Strong UK Troop, Navy and Air Force Contingents The British Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, announced a maximum UK contribution to the Euro Force of 12,500 soldiers, with combat support elements such as artillery, attack helicopters and logistics units, as many as 72 combat aircraft including Sea Harriers, and eighteen warships, including one aircraft carrier, two nuclear-powered submarines, four destroyers or frigates, and an amphibious task group.
The newspapers carry maps showing Britain's existing commitment of forces in 14 different places around the world, including the Falkland Islands which is listed as having a garrison of 1,650.
Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected the criticism as "wild .. bordering on the absurd.. a caricature beyond parody". It is suggested the force will be used for peace-keeping, peace-making and humanitarian missions in