The United States and Great Britain have been staunch allies thru World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict as well as in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and in Syria. But the lack of spending in the British military has some fearing that the UK’s military prowess will be looked upon as irrelevant unless they receive a huge shot in the arm with budget boosts.
“There is a concern that the U.K. is falling ever further behind and becoming even more useless from a U.S. point of view,” said Andrew Dorman, an associate fellow at Chatham House, a think tank in London.
Britain has traditionally seen itself as one of the world’s leading military powers, and its annual defense spending of 35.3 billion pounds (around $46.6 billion) is still the largest in Europe
But years of squeezed budgets and rising demand in other areas, such as the publicly funded National Health Service, have dented Britain’s military prowess, some warn.
At risk, these experts say, is the so-called special relationship with the U.S., a widespread source of pride among many politicians and the defense establishment.
The British Army has shrunk to 82,000 personnel, which the BBC pointed out is the smallest it’s been since the Napoleonic Wars some 200 years ago.
And in January a government spending watchdog warned that the Ministry of Defense’s shopping list over the next decade was “not affordable” — leaving it as much as 21 billion pounds short (about $27.7 billion).
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the U.K.’s Defense Select Committee published a report urging the government to boost military spending by at least 8 billion pounds a year (around $10 billion) to plug this gaping “black hole” and improve capability elsewhere.
Not only does the U.K. risk “failing both its citizens and its allies,” the report said, but it is also in danger of becoming obsolete in the eyes of its American partners and losing traction in NATO.
“Defense spending is an area where a strong message needs to be sent to our allies and adversaries alike,” said Defense Committee chairman Julian Lewis.
There are many in the British government that fear with President Trump calling for the European allies in NATO to pull more of their own share in defense spending, that the UK will be left far short to defend itself from threats, mainly from the east.
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