Little Britain will not be global military power, warns RUSI

The UK's role as a global military power is coming to an end and spending cuts leave the country at risk of becoming "Little Britain," a study has said.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph

Published: 7:00AM BST 02 Oct 2009

Unless politicians change course and agree to maintain defence spending at its current levels, the country will be left unable to conduct international military operations independently, according to the Royal United Services Institute.

The RUSI analysis suggests Britain now faces a “strategic watershed” similar to the “East of Suez” debate of the 1960s that saw the country accept an end to its old imperial role in Asia.

Neither Labour nor the Tories have promised to spare defence from the spending cuts both now accept will be needed to cut the Government’s deficit. Both are likely to fight the next election promising to keep increasing health spending, which would mean deep cuts in every other Whitehall department’s budget.

In a paper published on Friday, Michael Codner Director of Military Sciences at RUSI, said that cutting the defence budget below its current level would spell the end of Britain’s claims to be a major military power .

Instead of operating independently, Britain would only be able to mount military operations in concert with allies, either the US or

European states, he concludes.

“If defence spending is reduced considerably, the UK will need to choose a ‘contributory’ option whereby the UK contributes bits and pieces of capabilities to multinational forces with no significant autonomous or leading role,” said Mr Codner, a former Royal Navy commander.

“Severe cuts in the budget would require a shift from contributing specific robust capabilities to an alliance force structure; to providing no more than constabulary capabilities to interventions; to withdrawing from interventions almost completely.”

Even if defence spending is maintained at current levels, Mr Codner said, Britain will still have to reduce its military ambitions significantly, facing a “hard choice” to scale back either the Army or the Royal Navy and the RAF.

The paper says that with its current resources, Britain has two options: a “Global Guardian” role, concentrating on major ground operations like Afghanistan and reducing naval and air operations; or a “Strategic Raiding” role where a strong navy would carry a smaller ground force built around the Special Forces, the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines.

“If the government does not make the hard choice between the two options, then the third option will become the default outcome, regardless of levels of defence spending, with big penalties for global influence and status,” Mr Codner says.

The most extreme eventuality he describes is the “Little Britain” option, where the effectively UK abandons overseas operations and “focuses specifically on defence and internal security of the British islands.”

The RUSI analysis echoes that of General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff, who has said without a shift in strategy, our Armed Forces will “try with inadequate resources to be all things in all conflicts and perhaps fail to succeed properly in any.”

Source: Daily Telegraph

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