Debate on defence spending heats up as General Election approaches
With the UK General Election fast approaching, it has been very noticeable that the debate on defence policy and defence spending has attained a much higher profile in recent times.
In a previous ‘Message From The Bridge’ (see Sea Breezes, April 2011) I bemoaned the lack of a coherent defence policy for a number of reasons: firstly because the strategy is not joined up, with the best example of this being the construction of two new aircraft carriers which will be completed without suitable operating aircraft being ready to deploy; and secondly because the defence strategy and increasing constraints on defence spending fail to reflect the UK’s foreign policy aspirations with successive governments regularly committing our military resources to flashpoints around the world.
Commenting on the government’s Strategic Defence and Strategy Review in April 2011’s Sea Breezes, I felt the review had been driven almost purely by the motive of cutting costs - leaving this country, its trade routes and its interests around the world dangerously exposed. I also said that such a significant reduction in our naval strength - particularly the removal of a carrier strike force, was almost an open invitation to Argentina to once again make a play for the Falkland Islands.
NATO has set a target for its member states to spend a minimum 2% of their GDP on defence and much of the debate around defence spending has focused on whether the UK will continue to meet this level. Following the substantial cuts to the defence budget after the 2010 General Election, many defence and security experts hoped that spending levels would be boosted when the wider economy began to recover; but there is also worry that even deeper cuts might be on the horizon.
Given the increasing threat to international security, most recently manifested in the worsening relations between Russia and the West since the crisis in Ukraine, Sea Breezes hopes that further cuts in defence spending would be seen by the majority of responsible politicians as being wholly inappropriate at this time.
At the very least, this issue should be seen as of the utmost importance and properly debated. We must not sleep-walk into a position where the UK’s military resources are denuded beyond the point of no return.HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR