Saturday, 14 May 2011

WSJ: Sun Setting on British Power (?)

The Wall Street Journal reviews the ramifications of decisions taken by the UK's Coalition government to cut back on defence spending (excerpt follows):
The UK is in the midst of the most aggressive fiscal tightening since World War II—a process that US defense officials are watching with concern. In October, following a strategic review, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to cut the military budget by 7.5% and the head count by 10% over five years, and to retire lots of equipment, leaving the armed forces with 40% fewer tanks and 35% less heavy artillery. The planned cuts will come on top of an 8% reduction in personnel during the 13-year tenure of the former Labour Party government.
At a hearing Wednesday before a Parliamentary defense committee, the heads of Britain's army, navy and air force said the U.K. would no longer be a "full spectrum" military force—one capable of both low-intensity combat such as counterinsurgency and the kind of major operations required for state-on-state combat.
Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton, head of the air force, said simultaneous battles in Libya and Afghanistan have taxed the military. "There are times and there are phases on the operations where we have stretched the capabilities absolutely to the point where we find it very difficult to do anything else at that particular time," he said.
The three service chiefs said that the U.K. will still be able to project power on the international stage. The government has said that the cutbacks won't undermine the nation's ability to support its allies in places like Afghanistan, although they will result in a smaller military that the nation will be "more selective" in using. The U.K. will still have the world's fourth-largest military budget, Mr. Cameron has said.

The cutbacks come as broad geopolitical forces are reshaping the global military landscape. The U.S., which also is trying to curtail military spending, remains the world's dominant military power. China is engaged in a military buildup that has alarmed many of its Asian neighbors. And other NATO members are grappling with budget constraints while keeping a wary eye on Russia and the Middle East.
Do take the time to read the entire article.

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