Sir: Max Hastings, one of the shrewdest and well-informed writers about defence, is right (‘The military’s last stand’, 16 January). There is a good case for increasing the defence budget, but no British government is likely to do so unless there is a dramatic deterioration in the international situation. Budgets are likely to be cut, but our defence forces can and should continue to be important for our country’s security, reputation and influence. The forces are crying out for a Strategic Defence Review and the longer one is delayed the more will be the uncertainty and wasted defence money. A radical approach is required and a move away from some of the long-accepted beliefs that, for instance, all three services are of equal importance and that their budgets should continue to roughly reflect this. Risks have to be taken by defence policy planners and programmers as we cannot afford always to be ready for every eventuality. The coming Review presents the opportunity to shape our forces so that they are more appropriate for the times in which we live. It will not be easy, as vested interests and emotion abound, but we are already in a parlous state and unless brave and unpopular decisions are taken we will end up being good at nothing.
General Lord Guthrie
Sir: I am surprised that Max Hastings, with his extensive knowledge of military history, should think that major defence cuts and the cancellation of major programmes are the way forward for the armed forces. At the moment we are helping to fight a ground war in Afghanistan, but who knows what the conflicts of the next 20-30 years will be like, and where they will be fought? Britain has global financial interests — not least due to our natural resource companies (BP, Rio Tinto etc) and needs a global reach.