The UK’s defence spending is “far too low” to combat threats facing the country, including Russian aggression, MPs warned on Monday.
In its latest report, Britain’s Defence Committee urged the government to hike defence spending from its current level of 2% of GDP to 3%.
“Defence spending is far too low,” MPs wrote in the report.
"The Government now needs to apply the resources that are necessary to keep this country safe, and must begin moving the level of defence expenditure back towards 3% of GDP, as it was in the mid-1990s.”
Russia 'central to the discussion'
MPs said the main challenge currently facing the UK is the resurgence of state-based threats, highlighting Russia as “central to the discussion.”
They cited the nerve agent attack in Salisbury against a former Russian spy, Russia’s involvement in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad as well as a “sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption” as proof.
Terrorism, the erosion of rules-based international order and cyber threats were also identified as major challenges facing the British defence apparatus.
The UK readiness to tackle these issues is hampered by “serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery available to the British Army,” the committee warned.
A lack of self-propelled artillery, vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons and the need for modernisation of rocket artillery leave the British army “at serious risk of being outgunned by its Russia counterpart,” it said.
Greater anti-submarine warfare capacity and a layered air defence system were also needed, according to the committee.
UK defence spending
The UK has the fifth-largest defence budget in the world, behind the US, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia with defence expenditure totalling £35.3 billion (€40.47 billion) in 2016/17.
Last year, the government unveiled a £178 billion (€203.6 billion) spending plan for defence equipment and support through to 2026 with £44 billion (€50.3 billion) earmarked for submarines and £19 billion (€21.7 billion) for land equipment and ships respectively.
The UK is also one of only four NATO member states to spend 2% of GDP or more on defence, as mandated by the alliance. It spent 2.17% of GPD on defence in 2017, although Monday’s report noted that the government’s calculation now “includes certain items, like war pensions, which we used not to count.”
Additionally, a February 2018 report by the House of Commons Library found that in real terms the UK defence spending has decreased by £1 billion (€1.1 billion) over the last five years.