19 July 2019

In quest for bigger military budget, UK’s new defense chief speaks of Russian, Chinese threats

KONFRONTASI - British Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who took the position two weeks ago, has used her maiden speech to plead for more military funding by citing Russia and China as threats, following what has become a trend in the UK’s foreign policy of recent months.

In a bid to provide a strong first impression, Mordaunt outlined a post-Brexit world where the “global Britain” would play the role of a “protector” and a “problem solver” in the face of emerging threats.

She told a gathering of politicians, industry executives and senior naval officers at the Royal United Services Institute Sea Power conference in London on Wednesday that the UK needed strong military forces to project “our intent in uncertain and a challenging world.”

“A world that is becoming increasingly complex… the challenge of China rising… the threat from a Russia resurgent,” she said. “The ever-changing shape of violent extremism and terrorism, the growth of cyber threats…and organized crime.”

She promised not to be shy about asking the Treasury for more money amid attempt by the Tory government to reduce the size of the military as part of its austerity measures.

“I cannot tell you that the Treasury is going to welcome this message…I cannot tell you the Treasury will agree with this message. I can promise though, that the Treasury will hear this message,” Mordaunt said.

She said the money was needed so that the UK Royal Navy could continue “escorting Russian vessels off the premises,” referring to many rapid reaction missions by the British naval and aerial forces to escort Russian ships and aircraft passing the English channel out of the region.

Mordaunt’s call for an increase in the military budget echoed a similar proposal by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said Monday that London needs to “decisively” increase its military budget after leaving the European Union (EU) to develop a viable deterrent force against Russia and China.

“We are in a multipolar world without the assurance provided by unquestioned American dominance,” he said. “We face a more aggressive Russia and a more assertive China.”

“We simply do not know what the balance of power in the world will be in 25 years time,” he continued.

London has been working hard to satisfy US President Donald Trump’s demands of more military spending.

Trump has long threatened NATO allies to either step up spending or don’t count on US military assistance at the time of war.

Hunt said the UK should commit more of its GDP to defense if it wanted to remain close friends with Washington.

He said it was not sustainable to expect America to keep spending 4 percent of its GDP on defense while other members of the Western military pact spent only one or two percent.[PTV]

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