12 Aug 2013

UK defence capabilities again under fire

Summary: Another military official has raised doubts about the strength of the UK’s military abilities in light of recent defence cuts, following the next US ambassador to London Matthew Barzun’s comments that the cuts are an area of ‘critical concern’ in the longstanding ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US.

Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, former deputy head of the military, has said that there has been too much emphasis placed recently on the situation involving Trident, and not enough talk over the reduction in the size of the military, which he regards as the much more pressing issue.

He regards the use of nuclear weapons as an absolute last resort, and that conventional military force is always the most effective way of preventing escalation to nuclear requirements.

He said: “If the conventional means at our disposal are weak, the point of transition to nuclear use may be lowered to levels at which the risk of nuclear obliteration is self-evidently disproportionate to the issue at stake. At that point, it is likely that deterrence through the threat of nuclear use becomes incredible and can be so perceived by an opponent – a bluff waiting to be called. Thus, through conventional weakness, the nuclear deterrent is compromised, whether it is a rogue state or a major power that is involved.”

Mr Barzun, President Obama’s nominee for the role of US Ambassador to London, recently stated that he was concerned over reports that Britain was “barely” meeting its NATO obligations following a reduction of 20,000 soldiers in the regular army, from 102,000 to 82,000.

In addition, it has been revealed that the MOD is currently on track to fulfil a government promise to cut the UK’s nuclear weapons from 225 to 180 by the mid 2020s.

Decommissioning the missiles is reported to cost millions, leaving the question of further strain on the defence budgets open for the foreseeable future.

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