Monday, March 13, 2023

Money Talks: the UK Edition

The long post-Cold War period of low defense spending - for serious nations - is coming to an end ... at least those are the words and the vibe ... but what are the actions?

It is one thing to say you want to do more, the United Kingdom is actually talking about putting its money where their theory is;

The UK will spend an extra £5bn on its military and aim to lift defence spending to 2.5% of GDP as part of an updated strategy to counter intensifying threats from China and Russia.

Aspirations are good ... and so are statements of reality. Did you note the "C" word?

The revised defence, security and foreign policy review will describe the Chinese Communist Party as an "epoch-defining challenge" in a toughening of language.

The top priority will be to tackle the "fundamental risk" to European security posed by Moscow and to deny President Vladimir Putin from benefitting from his invasion of Ukraine. 

It is easy at this point to, like I did, get a little too must towards singing "Rule Britannia," as we will have to watch for a followthrough. That is always the hard part. Applied optimism leavened with the cynicism of experience;

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking before his updated review is published on Monday, said the new money for defence over the next two years would replenish and grow ammunition stockpiles and top-up funding for the nuclear deterrent.

This is a wise first move. No one can deny that the last 30-yrs of wargaming, theory, and funding of magazine depth and industrial capacity was an exercise in self-delusion. This would be my recommendation.

Of course, like we are doing with the new SSBN, an expensive bit of kit, the British have to recapitalize that as well. If you want to have a credible strategic deterrence, you have to make it happen. Not the best timing, but such is the flow of history.

Investing in her nuclear deterrent will have a nice knock-on effect of beefing up their submarine construction capabilities in preparation for AUKUS builds in the 2030s,

To synch back to one of my favorite phrases as it relates to the Mother Country, like her children she is a maritime and aerospace power. That is where her comparative advantage is. Yes, a strong army is needed, but if funding is not exactly as great as you would like - if you have to place risk somewhere - for a maritime and aerospace power, the land component is where that risk must be;

But the amount - while welcomed by the Ministry of Defence - is much less than what military chiefs are thought to require. Sources have told Sky News that the British Army alone needs an extra £3bn a year to avoid further cuts.

Then they need to find more money ... and this is when Lucy walks up to Charlie Brown with a football;

Mr Sunak, on a trip to the United States, also failed to commit to a timeframe on when his ambition for defence expenditure to reach 2.5% of national income, up from just over 2%, would be achieved other than in the "longer term".

That is ... unfortunate. The ever famous "out years," but I'll take it. 

At least the British are stretching to reach 2.5% - many of the rest of our allies aspire to get near 2%.

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