Ex-army chief issues WW3 warning and brands 'new axis powers' more dangerous than the Nazis

A former army chief has warned members of NATO the world is facing "as dangerous a moment as any time that we've had since 1945" as he called on members to invest more into their arms.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, who served as chief of the general staff until last month, told The Times that Russia, China and Iran were the "new axis powers", and a third world war could break out within the next five years if action was not taken.

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Arguing the countries posed even more of a threat than the Nazis in 1939, he said: "They are more interdependent and more aligned than the original axis powers were."

But the military expert said the conflict was not a foregone conclusion if NATO members, including the UK, significantly improved their arms.

"Most estimates will tell you that we've got somewhere between five and 10 years before Russia recapitalises and is able to pose the sort of threat that it did before the Ukraine war," said Sir Patrick.

"If we take the right steps now, if we address the threats and gaps we have in our capability, if we modernise our armed forces, if we make society and the UK more resilient, that's how we prevent it.

"If we do that, it's a low likelihood. If we don't, it increases the probability and it encourages Russia, China and Iran."

Armed forces 'not powerful enough'

Focusing on the UK, Sir Patrick said the armed forces were now not powerful enough to launch operations like the invasion of southern Iraq in 2003 or even the Falkland Islands in 1982.

"Could you scramble together the two brigades that took the Falklands? Yes, of course we could," he said.

"But could we get them there? Could we have the task force that made it possible and sustain it? No."

And while the general would not reveal the size of current army stocks, he told the newspaper that the figure would "put the hairs up on the back of your neck".

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War in Ukraine top of agenda

All 32 members of NATO are meeting in Washington this week to mark 75 years since the alliance's formation - including the UK's new prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer, who has pledged to conduct a review of defence within his first year of power.

The war in Ukraine is set to top the agenda, framed by the latest Russian attack - this time on a children's hospital, killing at least 31 people.