Government To Spend Billions More On Defence In The Face Of Russia And China Threats
Rishi Sunak on his visit to San Diego (Alamy)
Rishi Sunak has announced an extra £5bn for defence spending, as the government is set to publish its security Integrated review update this afternoon in response to evolving threats from across the globe, including Russia and China.
Sunak – currently in California to discuss defence agreements with the US and Australia – has said that the UK is “ready to stand our ground” and is set to also lay out plans to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP, up from 2.1 per cent.
The announcement later on Monday will confirm the billions of additional investment in defence spending over the next two years, and will focus on China and Ukraine.
The government has said that the "first and foremost" priority is "dealing with the fundamental risk posed to European security by Russia," and that the UK will "adapt" its approach to China with the "the epoch-defining challenge presented by the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly concerning military, financial and diplomatic activity".
Updating the Commons on the Integrated Review Refresh this afternoon, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that following the last publication in 2021, "events have moved at an even quicker pace than I think anyone could have imagined".
"There is a growing prospect of further deterioration in the coming years," he added.
Cleverly said that the review "reconfirms that the UK will play a leading role in upholding stability, security, and the prosperity of our continent and the Euro Atlantic as a whole."
However, a number of Conservative MPs voiced concerns. Alicia Kearns, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and China critic, welcomed the report, but warned the Foreign Secretary that the "threat of China cannot be seen primarily as an economic one".
"To do so is to fail to recognise that they are trying to undermine our security and our sovereignty," she told the Commons.
Meanwhile, former minister and chair of the defence select committee Tobias Ellwood called for ministers to move to 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence spending "now", and said that "we're sliding rowards a new Cold War."
"Threats are increasing yet here we are staying on a peacetime budget," he told MPs.
Labour described today's announcement as "overdue" but "welcome" and said the previous Integrated Review had some "serious shortcomings", and did not mention the risk of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan "nor did it foresee the risks of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine."
Shadow foreign secretary accused the government as "dragging their feet on the big decisions".
"The reality is that too much of the Government’s effort is focused on undoing its mistakes," he added.
It comes as Sunak, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet in San Diego and are due to refine the detail on a new deal that will see nuclear-powered submarines produced for the Australian navy. This agreement, the AUKUS pact, was first signed in 2021, and was seen at the time as an attempt to counter China's growing influence, the same year the UK published its last Integrated Review.
Former chief of the General Staff, Lord Dannatt, told Sky News this morning that China is an “aggressive competitor” that the UK is now “competing” against for influence.
“We don’t want to get into our heads that they are a threat, but what they are is an aggressive competitor," he said.
“We have to compete with them equally aggressively, whether it’s in the commercial world, in the industrial world or the intelligence gathering world, we have to recognise that they are expanding their influence and we need to compete with them for various areas of influence.”
According to the government, the new "IR23 was commissioned “to respond to emerging geopolitical threats, from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine to China’s economic coercion”, as well as increased competition between states.
They say that while these issues were noted in the first Integrated Review two years ago, the trends have “intensified” since, with “far-reaching consequences for the security and prosperity of the British people”.
The update was originally commissioned by Liz Truss while she was prime minister in September 2022.
At the time, the government said that the “refreshed strategy” will “ensure we are investing in the strategic capabilities and alliances we need to stand firm against coercion from authoritarian powers like Russia and China.”
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