U.S. is not happy with the United Kingdom's plans to reduce its armed forces. In the next four years, according to the plan of the Labour Party, the defense budget will be reduced by one third. Every year, it will be "squeezed" by eight percent. This was stated by Prime Minister David Cameron, who presented the Strategic Review of the Defense and Security to the Parliament.
As a result, the number of British army by 2015 will be reduced to seven thousand people and will amount to only 95,500 people, five thousand military will be laid off in the Air Force and Navy. Civilian personnel will be affected the most, as their number will decrease by as much as 25 thousand people. This decline is the largest since the end of the Cold War.
However, Cameron stated that this does not affect the defense of the royal armed forces, since defense spending in the UK will be consistent with NATO standards, according to which two percent of GDP is allocated for these purposes.
He explained one of the reasons for downsizing by the fact that the previous government had left him a legacy of 60 billion dollars gap in the defense budget. He tried to appease the U.S., assuring that the spending on the Afghan operation will not be reduced; moreover, the military involved in fighting with Taliban troops will be reinforced with the additional technical equipment.
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As a result of the reduction, Britain will lose a significant part of its power. This is especially true with Royal Navy. The number of frigates and destroyers will be reduced by nearly 20 per cent by 2020 (from 23 to 19).
Its flagship, aircraft carrier Ark Royal, will also be sent for scrapping ahead of time, although earlier it was planned that she will serve until 2016. Only one of the two new aircraft carriers that are being built now will be put into operation. According to Cameron, one of them is cheaper to finish than to send for scrap.
It is not ruled out that the UK as a result can generally be left without sea (and deck) aircrafts for many years. First, Ark Royal will be replaced, in the best case, only in 2019. Secondly, the British will stop the construction of the storm troopers with the vertical takeoff and landing Harrier. It is not clear when they will be replaced by the fifth-generation fighter F-35, because at the moment they are still being tested.
It is worth mentioning that it was the Navy of Great Britain, including the deck aircrafts that played the key role in defeating the Argentineans during the Falklands conflict in 1982.
The Air Force will be markedly reduced at the expense of surveillance aircraft Nimrod. Cameron said that they will be replaced by cheaper and more convenient drones. Yet, he failed to explain what will offset the reduction of the order for Typhoon by nearly 50 percent. To a large extent the cut will affect land forces as well: the number of tanks and artillery guns will be reduced to 40 percent.
Military budget cuts will affect even the forces of nuclear deterrence. Sea-based ballistic missiles Trident will be replaced with new ones. Yet, there will be significantly fewer warheads.
The Pentagon does not hide its disappointment and concern over the plans of Cameron. Recently the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized them. According to Clinton, NATO is the most successful military alliance in history, and this success should support the efforts of all members of the organization. Gates believes that NATO countries reducing the defense program at the same time "create holes" that will have to be closed by the U.S.
Would the cuts in the army cause further reduction of the impact of the UK in the world? Is it at risk of losing the status of the "big power"? Expert Vyacheslav Nikonov and Alexander Khramchikhin answered these questions for Pravda.ru.
"Only the US has the ability to independently pursue its interests at any point on the globe right now," said President of Foundation Politika Vyacheslav Nikonov. "As for the UK, it could solve these problems only in the 19th century. In recent years, its security was provided by NATO, mainly the U.S. And now, London does not set a global goal to solve serious world problems, because the emphasis is on preserving the union with the United States. In addition, the reduction is attributable to the fact that London is trying to cope with the financial crisis. As expected, in this regard on October 20 Prince Osborne announced a global cost reduction of 83 billion pounds, which will affect not only the defense sector.
The current events we observe in the UK at the moment occur in most NATO countries. In any case, further reduction in the proportion of British and European forces in NATO leads to further strengthening of the US in the alliance," the expert believes.
Deputy Director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, Aleksandr Khramchikhin sees the situation far bleaker. According to him, "London is not able to solve the problems without external support, which it mastered 30 years ago. Cameron, in fact, openly admits his inability, shifting responsibility to the United States. And I doubt that the British would repeat the success in the Falklands today. Britain is increasingly losing its importance as a major military power. Already, the British Navy is far less powerful than in 1982. However, Cameron's actions reflect a general trend: the NATO countries want the U.S. to solve all problems".