Michael Fallon has announced a package of new contributions to NATO.
At a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, the Defence Secretary confirmed:
- The Royal Navy will take the lead of half of NATO’s maritime forces for a year.
- Offensive cyber support to NATO operations.
- Increased UK support for advising the Afghan Government, and its defence and security forces.
- Strengthened cooperation on Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The minister also claimed that Britain continues to meet its commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defence, as well as meeting the target of 20% defence spend on equipment and capabilities. However, the first point has been in dispute for some time.
It was claimed earlier in the year that British defence spending was 1.98% of GDP in 2016 according the International Institute for Strategic Studies, below the 2% target set out by NATO.
In 2006, NATO allies set a target to spend 2% of Gross Domestic Product on defence. The UK oftens meets this target but when reporting its defence expenditure to NATO, the UK now includes several items of expenditure which had not previously been included.
IISS director general John Chipman said:
“In 2016, only two European Nato states – Greece and Estonia – met the aim to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence, down from four European states that met this measure in 2015. The UK dipped slightly below this at 1.98 per cent, as its economy grew faster in 2016 than its defence spending.
“Nonetheless, the UK remained the only European state in the world’s top five defence spenders in 2016. If all Nato European countries were in 2016 to have met this 2 per cent of GDP target, their defence spending would have needed to rise by over 40 per cent.”
Recently, Labour MP Wayne David claimed that the 2% target was being met including retired personnel’s pensions, the government have so far declined to comment on this.
According to a press release, HMS Duncan will lead NATO’s Standing Maritime Naval Group 2 (SNMG2) as well as commanding NATO’s counter migration activity in the Mediterranean. HMS Enterprise will also lead Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) from July this year.
The Mine Countermeasures Group is a multinational, integrated maritime force, made up of vessels from a number of NATO countries. The group is mainly based in the Mediterranean and is capable of searching for and disposing of explosive ordnance. HMS Enterprise will be the flagship for the force, and will be joined by HMS Pembroke in the second half of 2017.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:
“As part of our leadership within the Alliance, we’re stepping up our NATO commitments. Whether it’s in the cyber domain, where I’m committing UK support to NATO operations, or on the high seas with HMS Duncan and HMS Enterprise leading half of the Alliance’s maritime forces in the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea, Britain is playing its full part.”
It has also been confirmed that Fallon has signed a Statement of Intent on North Atlantic Maritime Patrol with his US and Norwegian counterparts. He said:
“The P-8A aircraft will play a vital role in protecting the UK’s nuclear deterrent, the two new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers and supporting our NATO Allies.
By investing in these aircraft, as part of our £178 billion defence equipment programme, we’re showing that we’re serious in tackling the threats on NATO’s North Atlantic flank.
And in stepping up our cooperation with the US and Norway on maritime patrol around our shores, we will help keep Britain safer and more secure.”