By Muvija M and Sachin Ravikumar
LONDON -Britain will boost defence spending to 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of this decade, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, making a new commitment to bolster the military budget after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We need to invest for the long term in vital capabilities like future combat air, whilst simultaneously adapting to a more dangerous and more competitive world,” Johnson told a news conference at a NATO summit in Madrid dominated by the Ukraine conflict.
“The logical conclusion of the investments on which we propose to embark, these decisions, is that we’ll reach 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of the decade.”
His comments came after NATO on Wednesday branded Russia the biggest “direct threat” to Western security and agreed plans to modernise Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces.
Johnson said the NATO summit had been a success and that “countries around the table are also recognising that they must spend more.”
The alliance asks members to keep its defence spending above the 2% threshold, but Johnson argued earlier this week that the 2% was always meant to be “a floor, not a ceiling”.
Britain’s defence spending this year was projected at 2.3% of GDP due to increased military support for Ukraine, and Johnson’s new commitment on Thursday would represent an increase from that level.
Earlier this week defence minister Ben Wallace said Britain must boost defence investment to tackle threats not only from Russia but from China and other countries. He said investment must increase from 2024 onwards when the current spending package is due for review.
Asked about the prospect that high inflation in Britain could sap public appetite for supporting Ukraine, Johnson said: “The point I would make about the cost of freedom as it were, is that actually it is always worth paying.
“Unless we get the right result in Ukraine, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be in a position to commit further acts of aggression against other parts of the former Soviet Union more or less with impunity, that will drive further global uncertainty.”
Johnson’s remarks came as Russian forces abandoned the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island on Thursday, in a victory for Ukraine which the British prime minister said was evidence of Ukraine’s ability to fight back.
On Wednesday, Britain promised a further 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) in military support to Ukraine.