US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told his British counterpart that Washington is concerned that the UK’s military power and diplomatic influence being diminished.

“I am concerned that your ability to continue to provide this critical military foundation for diplomatic success is at risk of erosion, while together we face a world awash with change.”

The letter, leaked to the Sun, was sent on June 12 and will reignite a Whitehall battle over defence funding. Mr Williamson has been pushing for extra cash, stepping up his efforts after the NHS was promised a funding boost.

Mattis also said in the letter:

“A global nation like the UK, with interests and commitments around the world, will require a level of defence spending beyond what we would expect from allies with only regional interests. Absent a vibrant military arm, world peace and stability would be at further risk.”

Highlighting Emmanuel Macron’s recent pledge to pump an extra £260 billion into defence by 2025, Mattis said:

“As global actors, France and the US have concluded that now is the time to significantly increase our investment in defence. Other allies are following suit.”

He stressed that it was “in the best interest of both our nations for the UK to remain the US partner of choice” but “in that spirit, the UK will need to invest and maintain robust military capability”.

In a reference to the Whitehall rows, he added:

“It is not for me to tell you how to prioritise your domestic spending priorities, but I hope the UK will soon be able to share with us a clear, and fully funded, forward defence blueprint that will allow me to plan our own future engagement with you from a position of strength and confidence.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said:

“The UK maintains the biggest defence budget in Europe and we have been clear we will continue to exceed Nato’s 2% spending target. The defence secretary launched the modernising defence programme to strengthen our armed forces in the face of intensifying threats.”

43 COMMENTS

  1. Whilst the comments are true, I find myself irked at intervention in our politics by the USA yet again. It’s like they’re scolding one of their kids.

    • lets be honest to ourselves. don’t we see that our military is becoming nothing more than asset for the U.S military. i hate it when they say “you know we were just talking once and an idea came into our minds, how wonderful would it be if the Royal navy aircraft carriers had f-35B they will fit just right with U.S.M.C”. we are supposed to be independent. always trying to show everyone our joint capability. while that is good this is to much we need to become independent and fight our own fights i can assure you that U.S may jump to help us only if they feel they have something to lose, you know one of those U.S army general saying “if you think we are here to protect Europe then you are really mistaken. we are here to make sure the fight does not come to our land”. i always wanted us to continue the FCAS project with France for our future jet and try not to buy f-35. we all know about the f-35 backdoor just one reason why Germany or France and India are not very keen for the f-35.

      • The UK’s attitude is the same as the the US’s, it’s always best to fight a war in contentinatal Europe than in our own country, so I have no problem with their realist attitude.
        The US is making a very important point. That 2% is the minimum to be able to conduct operations in the NATO theatre. But the U.K. has global interests which are outside NATO’s reach; eg the Falkland. If we want a global reach, which is why we built the carriers, more than 2% is required.

        As for backdoor’s into the F35. Can’t see the US creating a flaw for the Russians and Chinese to exploit, that would be dumb.

        • Sean. We are spending £40bn p/a on defence. But how much of that is for our purposes and how much for the US or Germanies purposes ? The ‘special relationship’ groupies in the armed forces and elsewhere are entitled to their opinion but their job is to defend us and not to provide ‘relief’ to the US, Germany or anyone else.

          • I’d say a great deal of our defence budget is spent on defending Germany and other EU countries. Unfortunately that’s the price we pay for membership of NATO. But it’s a bargain price given we can use Article 5 to get the might of the USA’s military backing us up.
            But I’d add two caveats…
            (a) Free-loaders like Germany should be given the choice, meet the 2% or be thrown out of NATO. I’ve known several people who were born and grew up under the indoctrination of East Germany, as Merkel did. As a result I’m convinced she is deliberately running down the German armed forces because she’s deeply anti-military.
            (b) Membership of NATO is only worthwhile while the USA is a member. Were it to ever withdraw then the burden of protecting underspending Europe would fall on us and maybe one or two others. Given the possibility, especially if the EU continues its anti-American stance, I would be seeking to sign a bilateral mutual defence agreement between US and UK now.

    • Irks me too. But the current government feel that with Labour in its current form they don’t need to focus on defence. The problem is with 2% spending we’ve lumped in pensions and the deterrent but now we have cyber as a new(ish) domain to also handle. Space will also become increasingly important as launch prices decrease and put the capability within budget for more nations. It does perhaps needs an outsider to highlight what’s needed.

      • you have a very good point there. i feel that this whole nuclear deterrent modernisation is a complete waste of money. we only operate one submarine with trident warheads out of four. then why even build four rather build just 2 dreadnought class submarines. i wonder what has happened to our technological and space edge. countries like China and India who we always thought are of not much good today have space programs both cheaper and better than ours. it’s really sad when our own satellites often go to the Indian or American space agencies for launch. makes me feel that the politicians really don’t care about this country and what is even more frightening is that i don’t even see a political party which actually has a clear goal to help us regain our capabilities back.

        • 1 on patrol 1 for training 1 in maintenance and one in reserve – 4 is the minimum to be able to maintain a continious at sea deterant

        • Our satellites go to those places to be launched because they are closer to the equator thus taking maximum advantage of the Earth’s spin to assist launches. If we were to build our own launch sites here in the UK we would immediately be at a disadvantage to those equator based sites. That being said, I do think there is a market for small payload launches like cubesats etc as they are small mass (not as great an advantage to equatorial launch) and wouldn’t have to travel across the globe to their launch site (made in the UK mostly).

          • Ascension would make an ideal UK launch with gravitational assist from being near to the Equator.
            Our UK space efforts seems to be completely wrapped in the European Space Agency. It’s hilarious that the worlds most successful, innovative, and advanced rockets are being flown by a private company, Space X. Meanwhile the ESA is beginning work on Ariane 6, a rocket already made obsolete by Space X’s Falcon 9, Block 5 rockets.
            It’s like EasyJet deciding to design and build their own planes rather than buying Dreamliners from Boeing.
            National space agencies should focus on doing what private companies can’t or won’t do, rather than try and compete and fail with them. Didn’t the R100 and R101 airships teach us about private v public.

      • Maybe we are THAT close that Mattis feels that he can actually be pretty blunt with what he says. It reads like an inter-departmental memo to me, not a diplomatic communique.

        I agree wholeheartedly that we do need to increase spending however.

        • Mattis knows that the whole 2% spending is just a lie. we add pensions and the deterrent in it and we don’t have much. what we actually need to do is not only increase the spending but also spend the money smartly. to be efficient in what we do. to make sure that our equipment not only give us the edge but at home provide people with jobs also.this will also help the public have a favourable view towards the military. i think the first thing we need to do is provide our lads in the army with proper gear and a decent assault rifle and simply not interfere in wars just because U.S would like it. the last thing what we want is the humiliation we faced at the Barsa province happen to us again. i also feel that we must really stay out of Afghanistan now.

          • a decent rifle is the only thing the lads consistently cry about. I can’t believe we still haven’t replaced the sa80.
            duty rumour suggests we’re on board with an American programme to develop something new but that is just a study so far.
            SASC are bunch of jokers. Had them once tell me that tracking point was top secret. absolute clowns.

          • reaper. Maybe we could persuade H und K to put a made in America sticker on the SA80 ! Or maybe get ‘Call of Duty’ to use it in their games !

  2. Macron’s “pledge to pump an extra £260 billion into defence by 2025” is pretty huge. Assuming an even split across those 8 years (counting both 2018 and 2025) that’s £32.5bn extra each year! That’s massive. Surely that can’t be right? Is he including money already committed and that £260bn isn’t genuine new money, e.g. the French equivalent of our constantly talked about a year ago “£179bn equipment budget” (or whatever the figure was) is being increased to £260bn? If it really is extra money then France is going to be at well over 3% of GDP spent on defence, probably over 3.5% and not that far off 4.0%!

    • It also depends what they mean by defence. You could argue that will encompass not only their defence budget but policing, social reforms etc. Unless he has a magic wand to grow the French economy hugely over that time the money will have to come from borrowing or reductions elsewhere, just like with the UK.

    • Julian – agree that figure sounds rather high,would have thought £26 billion would be nearer the mark but I cant doubt the article.

      • Julian. When you have a choice between something impossible happening or a man lying. Always go with a man lying. Apologies to Mr Thomas Paine for my paraphrasing.

    • halving the £13.1 billion in foreign aid would buy a few military assets google where it goes then write to your local M.P(i have) and demand it is revised.

  3. Am no fan of the Trump adminstration – but I have no problem with Mattis & Trump sounding off about this matter. I would also be mighty pissed if I have to explain, year after year to my taxpayers as to why we are spending 4.0 percent of our GDP to protect our both ourselves and our partners who are struggling to get to 2 percent to fulfil their own responsibilities. I really does look like the rest of the NATO alliance are taking the piss and taking the US defence commitment for granted

    • the alleged super financier trump would do well to look at his own nations assets. if you google AMARG inventory you’ll see over a thousand modern aircraft held in a state of preservation,or for reactivation in the light of a major future conflict the u.k lost 72 harriers for a paltry£116 million, how many aircraft could the u.k buy from there for the same cost? it must cost millions to maintain and operate and reducing some of the u.s military budget, could suit ‘top trumps’ trump very nicely, and any ally would be enhance too win,win? 1,000 f 16’s upgraded to latest specs of f 15’s as already built replacement for the outgoing tornado.while you’re there take a look at the u.s naval inactive fleets to see where the navy could be boosted by ship already built, and not with its plans on the back of a cigarette packet as th 31 seems to be.

      • andyreeves: One second you say ‘Americans should keep their noses in their own business”. Then you say that America should let the UK buy stuff from their inventory on the cheap. You do illustrate the major problem most Americans have with helping NATO in that one second you tell Americans to F— Off but then expect help or discounts when the midden hits the fan.

        I wouldn’t help you after you tell me to bugger off. Think before you post.

  4. Every little helps, whether it is having to keep up with the French or a friendly reminder from a grown up son to his tired old dad across the Atlantic, it’s all grist to Williamson’s mill. It’ll help him make his case in front of May and the Treasury. It won’t help increase our budget, especially after leaving the EU which will slow our rate of growth, at least in the early years and tax receipts will go down, while having to find more money for the NHS. But it might help Williamson argue for the retention of the amphibs and marines, for example.

  5. This has been on the cards for some time. The Americans know we fudge the figures to say we spend 2%. They aren’t stupid and Jim Mattis is a man who should be heard. It’s unfortunate we have nobody of parity with him. We have been foolish for nigh on 50 years and senior allies are quite frankly sick of it.

  6. The Americans are right; why should the European Countries pay so little into NATO and the defence of their countries, when the American tax payer contributes huge amounts of their money at the expense of internal spending pressures.

    I believe America should give an ultimatum to all European countries including Britain, to contribute fairly to their own defence otherwise America will withdraw from European defence.

    Britain needs to do its bit, and for all the doubters who object then they should read the previous history of this country which would make them realise that the same mistakes are happening once again. The British military is being conveniently taken for granted and Phillip Hammond should be locked up for successfully achieving in a very short period what the Russians never achieved, which is the reduction in UK capability.

    This country would not have survived WW11 without the Americans, which was as a result of Politicians not properly investing in the defence of this country. It takes many years to create true capability and a very short time to lose it.

    Lets not make the same mistakes again!

    • “This country would not have survived WW2 without the Americans, which was as a result of Politicians not properly investing in the defence of this country. It takes many years to create true capability and a very short time to lose it.”

      That’s a myth, we had the largest navy in the world at the start of WW2, and were in the middle of building scores of ships, defence spending increase all during the 30’s.

      And we would of survived quite easily by ourselves, won it? No definitely not, but our survival was never under threat.

      • Although I agree mattis should be saying this, I think we should recognise the us motive is not purely altruistic. The us benefits most from the current geopolitical order and wishes to sustain the status quo in the face of revisionist powers. But no excuse not to meet the NATO minimum. Germany in particular.

      • SoleSurvivor – Winston Churchhill’s memoirs in his ‘The World At War’ series states quite clearly the opposite. Perhaps you should read it sometime.

    • The US did not ride to our rescue during WW2, the really is closer to the following:

      1) The French third republic was completely unwilling to defends itself ( or its population was unwilling to defend it. This left the entire British field army swinging in the wind.
      2) The British army needed a complete rebuild after the third republic almost took it down with it.
      3) This left Germany a very small window in which it could potentially launch an invasion without real challenge from the British army ( it could not have launched an invasion if the British army was in any way able to but an army in the field).
      4) To take the opportunity it needed to destory the RN and Royal airforce in its own back yard. It could not and lost is one small opportunity to chop the head off the British empire, a body politic with far more manpower and resource than Germany.

      The battle of Britian happened because of a lot of luck on the side of Germany and trusting the French third republic on our side, we won that all on our own, after this there was almost no hope of Germany defeating the British empire ( and no hope of the British empire defeating Germany). In no way did the US save our bacon, we worked together as allies to liberate the rest of Western Europe as each on our own could not do so and we both found it unacceptable to leave Western Europe in the hands of either a facist or communist government and the Far East in the hands of an Militaristic expansionist dictator.

  7. ‘then why even build four’ – that is the absolute minimum to ensure continuous at sea deterrence. The USN is amazed that the RN has managed it with less than 5. 1 at sea, 1 preparing, 1 in refit, and a spare in case of accidents.

    • you don’t get it we are short of money we cant have this grand show off weapons without using our capability somewhere else. even if we have 2 and since we are a part of nato i think we will be able to deter any enemy. honestly speaking no one today is really going to nuke us first. not even Russia i am sure.

      • Given the French also maintain a deterrent, couldn’t we alternate patrols on behalf of NATO? Crews could even be mixed to share control.

  8. The Royal Navy has to expand. During the last few decades, the focus has been on equipping the British army with the right kit to fight various terror groups.

    After March 2019 Britain will become a Global entity once again whether it wants it or not. That will require a sizable increase in surface vessels, in order that the Union Jack can be seen across the globe. Many new trade deals will possibly include some form of military commitment? That won’t be possible with the current fleet, it’s as simple as that. I believe a greater number of frigates will need to be stationed on a permanent basis in order to be on station at all times.

  9. Come on pepes, Mattis didn’t write this letter, Williamson did!

    What do ya’ll think they were plotting at Trooping The Colour? Not sure how it will be in 10/11DS but I don’t care – needs to be said.

    The NATO summit is going to be really interesting. Can’t see how Trump can leave without either very significant new spending pledges or a degree of withdrawal. I also reckon Trump is going to double down and recognise Crimea as Russian a couple of days afterwards.

    Interesting times!

  10. I think it points towards, no increased funding for defence and this is the last desperate throw of the dice. I am not surprised at France under Macron seeking to replace a post BREXIT UK as a bridge between Eurooe
    and the USA. We have shot ourselves in both feet and this one and it will be no surprise if the,is a stop lots including the Trident missiles themselves, as France becomes the partner of choice in more ways than one.

  11. The Americans are right.

    As for these blasted Mod spokespeople.

    “Largest budget in Europe.”
    Pointless if you don’t spend it efficiently.

    “Meet NATO 2%”
    That’s meant to be a minimum not a satisfactory figure.
    And you know full well you don’t as pensions and deterrent have been chucked in to that.

    “That’s why we have the MDP to strengthen against threats”
    No dear you have the MDP because you want to cut the forces yet again. Modernising has nothing to do with it whatsoever. Saving money when your tens of billions in the red does.

    It irritates me immensely that faceless spokesmen women keep coming out with this tosh parrot fashion.

    I wish we had clued up journalists who could call these people out to their faces for the nonsense they come out with.

  12. Good Day!
    Strange that over all these years that I have been following and commentating that nobody from the Cameron and May side have actually presented an argument to suggest they are supporting a tier one Defence force!
    They seem to have completely ignored all the facts of Russia’s expansionism and rapid and increased Defence spending!
    When France can increase Defence spending then we can too!

    Don’t create a Chamberlin scenario were we will regret for ever! Be strong it’s time to increase Defence spending to 3-4% before it’s to late!

    Nick

  13. The Galileo situation should make it clear to everyone where we stand.Grabbing the UK satellite industry is more important to the EU than the UKs contribution to European defence.
    So the US just wants us to help them with their foreign adventures.

  14. Couple of things

    1. The Yanks are right – Europe and therefore the UK need to up their game and stop freeloading (not so much us – but the rest yes)
    2. It is our government that have these grand ambitions on the world stage – they need to fund it or be honest with the population.
    3. Defence actually makes this country money – and there are not that many industries that have the ability to export to the levels of defence – it could be more if government supported defence in the same way it supports foreign owned car manufacturing for instance.

    My tax breakdown and various other govt documents state that the defence budget for this year is £42bn. Not sure why it is common to state it is £37bn, which is probably more accurate.

    By investing in defence we are investing in british people and british industry, it is self perpetuating and the US gets this.

    Unfortunately we also need a massive increase in Police as well, time to stop pretending we can afford a nanny state and start getting the building blocks right and then we can spend on supporting peoples lifestyle choices

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