Yesterday, the newly-reelected British government proposed a “red meat” budget that may the boldest since Margaret Thatcher. It also contained defense news that will be welcomed by the United States. The BBC reports:
The chancellor has pledged in his summer budget to meet Nato’s target of spending 2% of national income on defence every year, up to 2020. […]
As well as committing to meet Nato’s target, he announced:
- Spending on defence to rise in real terms – 0.5% above inflation – every year during the Parliament
- New £1.5bn Joint Security Fund for investment in military and intelligence agencies
This is a pleasant surprise. British defense spending has been declining for years, and the pledge to fix that was not in the Conservative manifesto. In fact, U.S. officials up to and including President Obama expected Britain to slip below the 2 percent NATO target that only five European nations meet at present. For the Conservatives to use their first major expenditure of political capital in part to right the situation—and not just now, but for the length of the next Parliament (5 years)—is very good news.
This move restores Britain to the forefront of European NATO countries that take defense seriously. And coming after German Defense Minister (and heir apparent to Angela Merkel) Ursula von der Leyen’s call for greater German defense spending, it is good news for the U.S.
While we’re definitely the biggest partner in NATO, America’s defense does rely on our allies making real, if not equal, contributions. Unfortunately, since the Great Recession began, those same allies have all used their defense budgets as a piggy bank to be raided in hard times, in the process cutting the combined equivalent of the German Army out of NATO’s budget.
We’ve not been shy at expressing our dismay about this, especially as Vladimir Putin has grown increasingly confrontational in the east. Three cheers, then, as the biggest economic power in Europe (Germany) and the nation that’s traditionally been our strongest European partner on defense (Britain) start to build back up.