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Britain faces the “moment of 1937” and must be prepared to act quickly to prevent the spread of war in Europe, the new army chief said.

In a speech on Tuesday, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, will say he has never seen such a clear threat to peace and democracy as the “cruel aggression” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he current situation with the run-up to the Second World War.

In his first public engagement since taking office, General Sanders will say his focus is on mobilizing the military to help prevent the spread of war in Europe by “getting ready to fight alongside our NATO allies and partners and to win”.

He is expected to say: “In all my years in uniform I have not known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence, as the brutal aggression of President Putin and his expansive ambitions.

“This is our moment in 1937. We are not at war – but we must act quickly so as not to be dragged into it by a failure to contain territorial expansion.

“I will do everything I can to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war.”