There are further calls from the USA today for European allies to meet the key 2% of GDP spending on defence target.
While the UK’s core spending is now below 2% items like Afghanistan, Foreign Military Aid and spending on nuclear weapons help to bring it above the 2% figure. However as operations in Afghanistan wind-down the UK, on current spending plans, may well fall below the 2% figure. If there are further cuts in 2015 we will certainly fall below 2%.
My own previous opinion was that the UK normally meets its international obligations and we would stay above 2%. Example’s of this include the UK being one of only two members of the G8 who actually matched the pledged target of 0.5% of GDP being spent on foreign aid. The UK as far as I know is the only major country trying to meet the even higher UN suggested level of 0.7% of GDP.
The UK was also one of the few countries to meet its obligations on CO2 emissions both from Rio and Kyoto and the UK is probably the only country in Europe that actually tries to implement legislation coming out of Brussels’s. (The Germans already having it as they wrote it)
However David Cameron refused to be drawn on the 2% of GDP target when asked in Parliament.
The key themes of the NATO summit in Wales in September will be getting governments to pledge to the 2% target as well as improving the alliance to meet the threat from Russia (which will require greater spending).
Given that states such as Poland are already pledging to meet the 2% target and the UK that is currently slightly over the target is hosting the event it would seem very difficult for Cameron to not make the pledge of keeping spending at or above 2% of GDP.
That being said I have never come across another UK Prime Minister with Cameron’s ability to wriggle out of things and try to spin a victory in the face of abject humiliation so he may well not make the pledge preferring instead to tell us about how we still punch above our weight and how we don’t need to spend on defence as we won’t be having another war until the budget is balanced.
What do you think are the chances of getting such a pledge from the UK Government in September?
One point I would like to make is that such a pledge would be revolutionary for HM Forces. The UK has been cutting the proportion of GDP spent on defence year on year since 1944. For the first time in 70 year’s the MOD would be able to accurately project its long term budget and make acquisition and manning decisions based on reasonably certain assumptions about the money it would have to spend.
Defence reviews could actually examine defence instead of trying to fit current projects into what ever budget is left.
This would likely mean that in the longer term at least we can probably look at getting more bang from our $60 billion a year defence budget. Understanding the long term budget would probably help to prevent more f**k ups like T45 where numbers of vessels were cut to match shrinking budgets leading to higher unit costs that required further reductions in unit.
Coupled with the ten year balanced budget planning and the ending of legacy projects like Typhoon this could all serve to revolutionise how the MOD does business in the future but the question is, will Cameron make the pledge?