And So It Goes…#590

For the Ruling Elites and their servants -the Political Class – Imperialist warmongering and all the bombs and bullets that go into it adventurist campaign after adventurist campaign,costs money; money which has to be accounted for in their Real Life Monopoly Gaming Board World. Britain’s Royal Navy nearly ran out of munitions bombarding Libya back in 2011 ,now all its armed forces are back to begging for spare change on the street corner-or so THEY would try and have us all believe. nevertheless,the daily Tory -Usurer-Graph would hardly publish an erudite article such as the one gleaned ( from the 6th.February edition) below,were not the actual situation less than dire.  Sit back relax and mull over the term borrowed from German..Schadenfreude.

By Michael Clarke

6:25AM GMT 06 Feb 2015

 When it comes to British defence policy, a slow-motion train crash is unfolding before our eyes.

Since the last Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, there is no disagreement that our immediate security environment has taken a turn for the worse. The threats are more immediate and nearer to home than Basra or Helmand: there is the blowback, in its many different forms, from overlapping crises in the Middle East, and the way in which President Putin has been rewriting the rules of European security, which worries us and threatens our allies.

The Nato summit in Wales in September last year came out with a series of strong commitments to action, in both the Middle East and Europe, that would shore up at least the military position in regard to these new challenges. That response was also based on the UK chivvying its European allies to re-commit themselves to spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence, and to spend at least 20 per cent of that amount on equipment.

Solemn statements were duly made – but it was another triumph of hope over experience. The UK will not even meet that commitment itself. Last year, defence spending was right on the threshold – 2.07 per cent of GDP. This financial year, on current trends, it will fall to 1.8 per cent, and could be 1.7 per cent or less by 2020, even without considering the impact of the further cuts expected i.Of course, any commitment as crude as “we will spend two per cent of GDP” – whatever that spending is devoted to – is a foolish yardstick, replete with anomalies. One reason why we have come right down to the threshold is that the UK’s GDP is not only rising, but has been recalculated to include narcotics, prostitution and charitable activities. Also, expenditure does not automatically translate into combat power. Many of the less capable Nato allies spend far too much on the pay and pensions of a bloated senior officer corps – hence the new commitment to devote at least a fifth of defence budgets specifically to equipment.

Nevertheless, the 2 per cent commitment has huge symbolic significance – not least within Congress and the White House. Nato massages the figures as best it can, but even on the bases of its own statistics, America is a clear outlier, spending 4.4 per cent of its GDP on defence. Apart from the UK, only two other members of the alliance – Estonia and Greece – are presently above the threshold. The official average among European Nato members has drifted down to 1.6 per cent – and the reality is closer to 1.3 per cent or less.

If the Obama approach to regional security means anything, it is that America’s allies around the world must do more for their own security. The President hates the term “leading from behind”, but in truth, that is where he has positioned the United States in a series of international crises. And if the UK wants the US to watch Europe’s back as it faces crises in the Middle East and Ukraine – and crises to come in the Mediterranean and north Africa – even a crude symbol of burden-sharing such as the 2 per cent target will really matter.

With an overall budget of £37.4 billion, Britain’s military remains at least the fifth biggest in the world. But more than 40 per cent of that budget is spent on equipment – and maintaining a place at the military top table means going for world-class kit as well as highly trained and motivated warriors to operate it.

The last defence review confirmed that the UK would eventually operate two big aircraft carriers; the next one will almost certainly confirm that our Trident nuclear submarines will be replaced one for one. Once such top-of-the-range equipment has been ordered, there is not much wiggle room left at our current figure of 2.07 per cent of GDP – even in a budget of this size.

As a result, there is likely to be some slippage in the overall numbers of its new combat aircraft – the F-35 – the UK can afford for the RAF and the Navy. The Navy, now down to 18 major warships, may also struggle to order the 12 or 13 new Type 26 frigates it had planned – while the Army is already living with an armoured vehicle fleet that is a good deal smaller than it expected. We also need to beef up our combat intelligence and surveillance capability, not to mention our cyber-technology – both are extremely expensive, and we currently do not have enough of either.

With the economy growing, the cash difference between what the Treasury expects to spend on defence and what 2 per cent of GDP could be worth between now and 2025 is probably somewhere between £125 billion and £160 billion (the lower figure is based on the official estimate that GDP will grow by 2 per cent per year in real terms, the latter on more optimistic projections). Either way, this is a lot of cash – far more than the Treasury’s current trajectory for defence, and indeed far more than the Ministry of Defence has ever requested.

Even a fair slice of such a sum would allow the military to deliver its current strategic programme properly – and avoid what senior officers refer to as a “collapse in the defence paradigm”, whereby trying to keep all our capabilities going at the lowest possible level renders them militarily ineffective. Yet at the moment, the talk is not even of increasing the budget, but of slicing it still further.

 If defence cuts in the autumn hit the Armed Forces with the impact that seems likely, no amount of smoke and mirrors will make any difference to the grim reality.

Professor Michael Clarke is Director-General of the Royal United Services Institut

Reap the Whirlwind !!




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