The Daily Star, a low quality, often sensation-grabbing newspaper, ran with the headline “UK Tanks and Troops Ready for War…” Normally, I don’t bother with those sort of papers, but I had to look closer.
Gavin Williamson is the UK Defence Minister. He recently said, “This threat is real and it is on our doorstep. We should not underestimate the damage the Russians could do.”
He has just sent 16 tanks and 600 troops to Russia; Estonia to be more precise. Why would he do this? Russia was on our doorstep, perhaps in Calais, France, or maybe even planning an invasion coming down from Scotland. Despite no evidence of an imminent invasion, he has sent a tiny force halfway across a continent to show Putin he means business. This exercise highlights the difficult position the UK military is in at the moment.
Gavin Williamson can be seen here in Brussels at the NATO Nuclear Planning Group. They have said they want to modernise the command structure. That may be with a view to integrating it into the much trumpeted EU military force. (One that’s existence was repeatedly denied by UK politicians, until Jean Claude Junker announced it two months ago.)
There is going to be an Atlantic command, and then a European command to provide support with a further capability of cyber operations. NATO says that the UK has met its contribution requirements of 2% of GDP. However, a quick look at military balance reports says otherwise. The reports say that spending has stagnated for two consecutive years.
The Ministry of Defence disputes this, and countered that they have exceeded budget requirements in the face of increasing global threats. (Perhaps from Russia?) So, which is correct-the official report, or the Defence Ministry?
The French ambassador, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, also recently visited NAVFOR. This is at the Northwood HQ. This is the joint HQ. Why on earth are the UK forces being integrated into a bloc we are leaving? Clearly, there is an EU flag on display above an EU Naval force display. Atlanta was the operation to combat pirates in Somalia. Once the EU had set up and established an operation in the region, it was quite a simple matter to drift it back into EU operations once the pirates had been vanquished.
This is causing concern in the US, When Donald Trump visited NATO last May, he expressed some worries, they are obviously going to be concerned of spending commitments. If the UK is going to be committed to an EU army, navy and air force, will it be able to still commit to NATO? It is a question that will need answering fairly soon.
The UK Defence Committee has also stated, in leaked documents recently, that with defence spending cuts on the navy, the UK will lose its ability to conduct specialist amphibious operations. MP Dr. Jullian Lewis has noted that the battleships Albion and Bulwark are leaving active service 15 years early, in 2033 and 2034, respectively. This ties in with other stories circulating that the marines are being downsized. It begs the question, is the UK military being made comparable to the French?
Macron has announced last week that he is going to increase defence spending by 30% and there is also a rumour, unconfirmed, that he wants to reintroduce conscription (Americans, read: the draft). The expansion of the French forces and the contraction of the British will make EU integration complete.
The final point to note is that if, and when, this happens, it is conceivable that Britain will cease to be a nation-state. It will not be able to defend its own borders. That order will come from Brussels.