London: Britain cannot afford to protect itself against all potential threats to its security, Defence Secretary Liam Fox has warned.
The dire state of the public finances meant the armed forces could no longer be equipped to cover every conceivable danger, Fox told The Daily Telegraph.
Since the World War II, the nation has maintained a force that can conduct all-out warfare, counter-insurgencies such as in Afghanistan or medium scale campaigns like the Falklands or Sierra Leone.
But Fox has given a clear signal that it will have to give up one or more of these capabilities, which have been maintained at the same time as contributing to collective security pacts such as NATO, the paper reported Thursday.
"We don`t have the money as a country to protect ourselves against every potential future threat," he said. "We just don`t have it."
The military had to be configured only for "realistic potential future threats", he said, hinting at a substantial cut to conventional forces such as tanks and fighter aircraft.
"We have to look at where we think the real risks will come from, where the real threats will come from and we need to deal with that accordingly. The Russians are not going to come over the European plain any day soon," he added.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is facing a substantial squeeze on resources, with indications that 30,000 servicemen may be sacrificed to meet the government`s stringent review of departmental budgets.
Fox signalled in a speech at Farnborough air show this week that Britain`s fleets of warships, fighters and armoured vehicles would be reduced because the MoD`s equipment programme was "entirely unaffordable".
There has been growing speculation that the Army could be reduced by a quarter of its strength to 75,000 under the defence review.
But Fox insisted that no troops would be made redundant until the fighting in Afghanistan was over.
"Everything that we might want to do with the Army will be constrained by what`s happening in Afghanistan," he said.
"I did not come into politics to see reductions in the Armed Forces but I also did not come into politics to see the destruction of the economy," he added.