Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Lawmakers tell UK to re-arm in light of Russia

‘NOT SUFFICIENT’:The Commons Defence Committee said that ‘The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities eroded since the Cold War’

AFP, LONDON

Britain must urgently rebuild defense capabilities abandoned after the Cold War to face growing global threats, including from Russia, a committee of lawmakers warned yesterday.

The Commons Defence Committee, which examines the spending and policy of the British Ministry of Defence, said nuclear capacity, tanks, warships and aircraft were needed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The world is more dangerous and unstable than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the report said, referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and seizure of territory by Islamic State and Boko Haram militants. “But the UK’s current defence assumptions are not sufficient for this changed environment... The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities eroded since the Cold War.”

The report comes as a truce between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces was tested in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict that has damaged relations between Russia and the West and has claimed 6,000 lives since April last year.

The committee said it would be necessary for Britain to stick to its NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, but that this would “not be sufficient.”

“It is vital to rethink the fundamental assumptions of our defense planning, if we are to help arrest the descent into chaos, which threatens to spread from the Western Mediterranean to the Black Sea,” the report said.

It highlighted weaknesses in NATO’s defense, saying that Russia could deploy 150,000 troops in 72 hours, while it would take NATO six months to do so.

NATO’s newly announced “very high readiness joint taskforce” could deploy 5,000 troops in 48 hours, but would not be ready until next year, the report said.

The report said it was difficult to mobilize “critical mass” in the air as Britain’s Royal Air Force had been cut to seven squadrons from 33, while the Royal Navy’s frigates and destroyers fleet had more than halved since 1990.

However, British Secretary of Defence Michael Fallon dismissed the report, saying the Conservative-led government of British Prime Minister David Cameron had plugged a “black hole” in the defense budget.

“The UK has the second-largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the EU,” Fallon said. “We are the US’ largest partner in the coalition air effort against [the Islamic State group] — bearing more of the load ... than we played in either of the Gulf wars.”

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