US presses UK to increase defense spending

Defense Secretary James Mattis hints that France could replace UK as Washington’s closest ally
LONDON: The UK needs to increase its defense spending, a high-ranking U.S. official has warned in a leaked letter sent to British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.
“A global nation like the UK, with interests and commitments around the world, will require a level of defense spending beyond what we would expect from allies with only regional interests,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in the letter sent to Williamson on June 12, three days after his visit to London.
“Absent a vibrant military arm, world peace and stability would be at further risk,” said Mattis.
Some British media organizations argued that the letter might have been leaked by Williamson, who would like to see the country’s defense budget rise.
The letter has also been described by local media as an intervention in British domestic policies.
Mattis expressed concern in the letter that the UK’s military power could be at risk of erosion. He also compared the UK unfavorably with France, which had committed to significant increases in defense spending.
“As global actors, France and the U.S. have concluded that now is the time to significantly increase our investment in defense. Other allies are following suit,” Mattis said.
“It is in the best interest of both our nations for the UK to remain the U.S. partner of choice,” he added.
“It is not for me to tell you how to prioritize your domestic spending priorities, but I hope the UK will soon be able to share with us a clear and fully funded forward defense blueprint that will allow me to plan our own future engagement with you from a position of strength and confidence,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Britain’s Defense Ministry said “the UK maintains the biggest defense budget in Europe and we have been clear we will continue to exceed NATO’s 2 percent spending target”.
“The defense secretary launched the modernizing defense program to strengthen our armed forces in the face of intensifying threats,” he added.
Trump in January 2017 sharply criticized NATO in an interview with the German daily Bild, calling the organization “obsolete”.
He argued that NATO had failed to address terrorism and today’s challenges.
“NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two — the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay,” he said.
A target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024 has been agreed to by all NATO member states — a goal which they are yet to reach.–AA

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