UK Prime Minister Prioritizes Defense Spending Ahead of Election

UK PM Sunak pledges to boost defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, citing growing global threats. This move positions defense as a key election issue, with both major parties backing the target.

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Israel Ojoko
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UK Prime Minister Prioritizes Defense Spending Ahead of Election

UK Prime Minister Prioritizes Defense Spending Ahead of Election

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to significantly increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, surprising former Armed Forces Minister James Heappey by making it a priority in an election year. The announcement comes as Sunak warns that the world is facing the most dangerous period since the end of the Cold War.

The Prime Minister's commitment will add an extra £75 billion to the defense budget over the next six years, including £10 billion for growing the domestic defense industry and boosting weapons stockpiles. Sunak challenged other European countries to follow suit, stressing that the continent's future security is at risk from Russia.

Sunak emphasized that while the UK is not on the brink of war, it faces threats from an "axis of authoritarian states" including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, which are showing increased assertiveness. The funding boost will enable the UK to build up its ammunition stockpiles and support ongoing defense programs, although it will not change the size of the armed forces or reverse cuts to the army.

Why this matters: The significant increase in defense spending reflects the UK's response to growing global security threats and its commitment to maintaining a strong military presence. The move also positions defense as a key issue in the upcoming general election, with both the Conservatives and Labour pledging to meet the 2.5% target when economic conditions allow.

The additional funding will be sourced through cuts to unprotected government departments and a share of increased research spending. Sunak appointed General Gwyn Jenkins, the vice-chief of the defense staff, as the new national security adviser, making him the first person from a military background to hold the role.

Former defense minister James Heappey described the spending increase as "much needed," although critics have cast doubt on the promise, noting that Boris Johnson had previously made a similar pledge in 2022. The government plans to fund the increase in part by reducing the civil service headcount to pre-COVID levels, but some have questioned whether this will be enough to meet the ambitious 2.5% target.

Key Takeaways

  • UK PM Sunak pledges to increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030.
  • Extra £75 billion for defense over 6 years, including £10 billion for domestic industry.
  • Sunak cites threats from "axis of authoritarian states" including Russia, China, Iran, NK.
  • Funding to boost ammunition stockpiles and support ongoing defense programs.
  • Pledge positions defense as key election issue, with both parties committing to 2.5% target.