Rishi Sunak promises to ‘strengthen’ Britain against threats from Russia and China.
Rishi Sunak has promised to “strengthen” Britain against growing threats from Russia and China as he unveiled a £5bn increase in military spending in an update on Britain’s defense and foreign policy.
The additional funds, spread over two years, will be used to replenish ammunition stocks depleted by the war in Ukraine and to modernize Britain’s nuclear submarine program.
The prime minister said Sunday he would also set out an “ambition” to increase Britain’s defense spending to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product from the current 2 percent, as part of a broader push to increase NATO funding. An increase would only take effect following a review of UK defense spending in 2025.
The government’s updated “integrated review”, outlining Britain’s defense and foreign policy, will be presented to Parliament by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Monday.
It comes as Sunak travels to San Diego to discuss the next stage of the so-called Aukus Defense Pact between the US, Britain and Australia, which seeks to counter China’s growing military might.
Sunak is set to meet US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to unveil more details of the pact, which aims to equip Canberra with nuclear submarines to deal with China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
“When the world becomes more volatile . . . Britain must be ready to assert itself,” said Sunak. “The UK will remain a leading contributor to NATO and a trusted international partner standing up for our values from Ukraine to the South China Sea.”
The updated integrated review was commissioned by former Prime Minister Liz Truss during her brief tenure as Prime Minister last fall, as the first version was released before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The extra £5bn for the MoD falls short of what Defense Secretary Ben Wallace had been trying to do to offset high inflation which has eroded the purchasing power of the £54bn annual military budget.
But what follows is a £24 billion increase in defense spending spread over four years and to be completed in 2020. Sunak said the extra £5 billion would bring UK defense spending to 2.25 per cent of GDP by 2025.
The Department of Defense said Wallace was “pleased” with the settlement.
Of the £5bn, £3bn will be invested in nuclear defense and the implementation of Aukus’ multi-billion investment programme, which is expected to culminate in the development of a British-designed next-generation nuclear-powered submarine.
Of the remainder, £1.9bn will be used to replenish ammunition stocks depleted by the war in Ukraine and “invest in the resilience of the UK ammunition industry”.
The war in Ukraine has exposed the shortage of arms stocks among all of Kiev’s western allies.
“Many of our stockpiles of weapons had to be replenished before the war in Ukraine,” said Ed Arnold, research associate at Royal United Services, a London-based think tank. “You have to climb a lot.”
In response to what Sunak described as an “epochal challenge” from China, the UK is launching various initiatives including greater investment in Mandarin language training for civil servants, a greater focus on ensuring Britain’s access to rare minerals and an additional £20 million funding for the BBC World Service.
According to Whitehall insiders, the UK will also ban TikTok, the Chinese social media app, from UK government devices, following the lead of US and EU institutions.
A government spokesman said “robust processes are in place to ensure government IT equipment is secure”.
TikTok said it was awaiting details on specific concerns from the UK government but would be “disappointed” by a ban. It added that “similar decisions elsewhere are based on misplaced fears and appear to be driven by broader geopolitics.”
Sunak described China as “the greatest state threat to our economic security”.
But Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader and leading China hawk, described the updated integrated review as a “wasted opportunity to denounce China”.
Sunak said discussions about increasing Britain’s defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP would begin at a NATO allies meeting in Lithuania this summer.
He added the discussions are part of a push for NATO member countries to treat the alliance’s current target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense as a “lower limit” rather than an “upper limit”.
Successive prime ministers have said they want to increase defense spending since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including Truss, who pledged to increase it to 3 percent of GDP by 2030.
Additional reporting by Cristina Criddle
https://www.ft.com/content/b101a9d7-26ee-41c7-96b7-89d2bfd3177a Rishi Sunak promises to ‘strengthen’ Britain against threats from Russia and China.