Gerald O'Brien

Gerald O'Brien

April 15, 2022

Tory trashing of our armed forces is dangerously out of step with the real world

Boris Johnson, when he was Prime Minister, insisted that preparing for a conventional war is today much less important. But as the war in Ukraine has shown, he was wrong.

In recent years UK foreign policy has assumed that wars are a thing of the past and that defence spending can be allowed to dwindle in order to increase spending on public services.

However war is never far away as we have seen in the last 75 years. Conflicts have waged in many countries including Korea, Biafra, Cyprus, Tibet, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and, most recently, Ukraine.

According to the World Bank, in 1985 UK military spending was 5.3% of our national GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In 1991 it was 4.1%, followed by 2.4% in 2007 and in 2018 1.9%, below the minimum commitment of 2% we agreed with NATO allies.

Military expenditure (% of GDP) for the United Kingdom and the United States

More recently in 2020 our military expenditure stood at 2.2%, but significantly less than the United States with a 3.7% of GDP commitment.

Today we are faced with China unpicking the democratic fabric of Hong Kong and minded to invade Taiwan.

Then there is Russia ruled by a despot who dreams of destroying Ukraine, annexing neighbouring countries like Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova and threatening countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

It is time the mainstream political parties woke up and smelt the coffee before, rather than after, a foreign state threatens to turn our cities into Mariupol.