With no concrete proposals, we must ensure increased defence spending will not be wasted
The answer to our own deficiency is international cooperation, writes Jamie Stone MP. | PA Images
In an era of British retreat spearheaded by this most shortsighted government, collaboration with international partners must be championed. It's time we became an internationalist military leader once again.
Years of chronic underspending by this government have impacted the morale of our troops. Speaking to these servicemen and women, I get the sense that this increase is welcome.
However, while I too welcome this increase in military spending, I am not transfixed by the Prime Minister’s spin. He brazenly declared to us that this is an increase of £16.5bn - new money as he’d have us call it.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies did not see it in quite the same way. They called it a “misleading way to present this announcement.” According to them, a more accurate reflection of this increase is to say that by 2025, we would have spent £7bn more than originally planned.
Now this figure is not insignificant, but let us not taint this morale boosting moment with a deception. Doing so only disrespects the personnel that put their lives on the line for our realm.
It is absolutely about time the United Kingdom evolved with the changing order and directed its finances towards investment in high-tech military capabilities. I have no quarrel with the underlying objectives of this spending review.
However, the devil is in the detail. And with no concrete proposals, I am concerned that this money will be wasted. Mr Wallace needs to tell us how he intends to get the most bang for our collective buck.
The changing balance of power on the world stage means that the relationships we hold underpin our security
Indications from the government seem to suggest that certain existing capabilities will need to be scrapped to assure this funding.
Ultimately, as we transition into a new era of defence, we accept that some of the old ways of doing things must fall by the wayside. For example, there must be a debate around the necessity of armored vehicles in a changed battle ground. The Army is best deployed in precise, covert operations such as the heroic efforts of the SAS in the Gulf War.
Famously, of course, the SAS went ‘Scud hunting’ after Saddam Hussein attacked Israel using Scud missiles. Their efforts to neutralise and cripple Iraqi infrastructure allowed the U.S. to convince Israel away from retaliation - allowing coalition forces to continue their efforts and secure peace.
Nowadays the threats have evolved into the online sphere. It is critical that GCHQ and the boffins behind the keyboards are supported moving forward. Only a substantial increase in capability within the National Cyber Force will do. An integrated approach between cyber and traditional forms of combat is how we stay ahead of the curve.
But of course more than one new frontier is emerging. It is vitally important that we are able to answer the technical questions surrounding the new Space Command. The UK’s space abilities are significantly behind those of Russia and China - and whilst the PM’s proposal for a rocket launch facility in Scotland by 2022 is welcome, they do not go far enough.
The answer to our own deficiency is international cooperation.
In an era of British retreat spearheaded by this most shortsighted government, collaboration with international partners must be championed because this is how we keep the peace - like in the Gulf.
Information sharing is how we target and neutralise adversaries - like when our intelligence services worked with the Dutch and Swiss to prevent Russia from gaining access to a lab where novichok used in the Salisbury attack was being analysed.
The changing balance of power on the world stage means that the relationships we hold underpin our security - there may have been a time in the distant past where this was an option, but today it is an obligation.
We have left the European Union, but this does not mean we cannot use other existing international structures to truly demonstrate our internationalist credentials.
With Biden at the helm, NATO will be revived again and Europe will look to us for military leadership. Let us provide it.
Jamie Stone is the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for defence.