UK must cut military spending by extra £1bn: Chancellor Osborne demands

© / MoD
A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 aircraft with AMRAAM and ASRAAM missiles fitted.

Further cuts to the UK defense budget will begin to impact on Britain's operational capacity, critics argue, as Chancellor George Osborne presses ahead with military austerity measures worth £1 billion.

British military spending in 2012: $62.7bn
British military spending in 2014: $57bn, February 5, 2014
It says that while it is true that the UK has been cutting its defense spending levels, this fall to fifth place is partly due to exchange rate effects: if sterling-dollar exchange rates from last week were applied to UK defense spending levels instead, these would rise from $57bn to $61.1bn in US dollar terms, above Saudi Arabia and into fourth place.

Even without the exchange-rate effect, IISS analyst Giri Rajendran notes, the fall in the UK's ranking [military spending] is not nearly as significant as it might first appear.

When the UK was third, in 2012, it was only spending about 1.5% more than Russia in US dollar terms, meaning that a relatively minor currency depreciation or decline in spending levels would produce a fall in its ranking.

In January 2014 British Prime Minister David Cameron was championing Britain's defense budget as still the fourth largest in the world, so maybe he was right after all.

The move could also end Britain's ability to meet the symbolic contribution of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to NATO - a topic of fierce debate in the run-up to the recent general election. The Treasury has requested the Ministry of Defense (MoD) make cuts of £1 billion. One ministry insider warned the Times newspaper that defense austerity, applied to this extent, would "not be a thing you could just swallow and carry on"
In a statement, an MoD spokesperson said: "We are confident that we will spend two percent of GDP on defense in this financial year "The prime minister has also made clear that there will be an annual 1 percent real-terms increase in spending on defense equipment throughout this parliament" Some experts suggest savings could be made by delaying the bringing into service of certain equipment, like the controversial and long delayed F-35 Typhoon combat aircraft.

However, defense analyst Paul Beaver told the Times holding back equipment may not be enough to save the requisite amount. "The only way to [make the full savings] is by stopping doing things. That is really, really difficult"

The UK has been under sustained pressure from the US to hit the two percent NATO target.

In February, US Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno aired his concerns over UK defense cuts. "We have a bilateral agreement between our two countries to work together. It is about having a partner that has very close values and the same goals as we do" explained Ordierno at the New America Foundation's '' conference.
Cuts mean the US Army now expects Britain to provide only half its previous commitment. Concerns have also been aired at the highest level of American civilian authority. During private meetings with Cameron in Washington in January, President Barack Obama said reducing spending levels from the current two percent of GDP would undermine NATO agreements. Obama is reported to have told Cameron: "If Britain doesn't spend two percent on defense, then no one in Europe will."