Rear Admiral Alex Burton, ex-commander Maritime Forces, said the ability to “fight and win on the front line” was being affected by defence spending issues.
Rear Admiral Burton, who quit the armed forces last autumn, told the BBC:
“If you do not spend more on defence than we currently are as a percentage of GDP, then we put at risk the fact that we are currently a credible military power, and from that we put at risk our position on the global stage.
The challenge is ensuring that we’re still able to [fight and win] not just over the next 12 to 18 months, but that we’re able to do that over the next 10 to 20 years.
As a sovereign nation – an increasingly sovereign nation – I think that’s critically important. Our insurance policy, I believe, will be compromised and our ability to stand up for our beliefs and protect our interests will be weakened.”
Recently, the International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that Britain spent 1.98 per cent on defence in 2017 — the same figure reported for the previous year.
However, according to NATO, the UK spent 2.14 per cent of GDP on defence.
IISS Director General John Chipman said:
“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. The UK dipped slightly below this at 1.98 per cent, as its economy grew faster than its defence spending.
Nonetheless, the UK remained the only European state in the world’s top five defence spenders. If all NATO European countries were to have met this 2 per cent of GDP target, their defence spending would have needed to rise by over 40 per cent.”
IISS is a a leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict. The Military Balance 2018, the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics from the IISS suggests that European states are ‘increasingly conscious that the world is a dangerous place.
Military capabilities on the continent have, however, become hollowed out as states first reaped a post-Cold War peace dividend and then made defence a discretionary activity in the wake of post-2008 austerity’ say IISS.
The report states:
“Our figures show that Europe’s growing defence investments are still not fully geared towards preparing European armed forces for future challenges. For most, defence R&D remains limited. Indeed, in 2016 three global defence firms – BAE, Boeing and Lockheed Martin – each spent more on defence R&D than all but two European states. Only France and the UK outranked them. And allocations for other costs, like military pensions, remain high in some states.
In 2017 for instance, military pensions absorbed over 33% of the Belgian and Portuguese defence budgets.”
The report discusses moves to recover and rebuild capability have been given impetus by stronger US pressure on European states to do more for their own defence, but claims they will take time to bear fruit.