UK urgently needs to rebuild its defense capabilities abandoned after the Cold War in the face of the growing threat from Russia, a committee of lawmakers warned on Tuesday.
The Commons Defense Committee said more warships, aircraft, tanks, nuclear capacity and missiles were needed to provide a deterrent to further aggression by Russian president Vladimir Putin. “This will involve demonstrating a conventional and nuclear capacity and determination to deter any further threats to the European order,” it said.
“The world is more dangerous and unstable than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the report said, referring to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the savagery of Islamic State militants. “But the UK’s current defense assumptions are not sufficient for this changed environment… The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities eroded since the Cold War.”
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The report also said that a Britain’s failure to maintain the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense risked undermining the alliance.
“It is vital to rethink the fundamental assumptions of our defense planning, if we are to help arrest the descent into chaos, which threatens to spread from the Western Mediterranean to the Black Sea,” the report said.
However, UK’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed the report, saying the government of David Cameron had plugged a ‘black hole’ in the defense budget. “Under this Government we have gone from the £38 billion black hole in the defense budget that we inherited to a properly funded £34 billion annual budget,” he said.
“The UK has the second largest defense budget in NATO and the largest in the EU,” Fallon added.
Furthermore, the committee warned that while Russia could deploy 150,000 of its troops in 72 hours, it would take NATO approximately six months to match this number.
It said the Royal Navy’s fleet of frigates and destroyers had been decreased from 50 in 1990 to just 19, while RAF Typhoon fighters had been cut from 33 squadrons to just 7, making it extremely difficult to mobilize “critical mass” when required.
Putin’s Falklands threat: Britain is ready to beef-up its defenses
The report comes as Britain announced it is willing to beef-up ?its defenses in the Falklands amid claims that Putin is helping Argentina re-arm. It was reported three months ago the Kremlin and Argentina had reached an agreement for Russia to supply long-range bombers to Argentina along with 12 Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic, which is an all-weather attack aircraft.
Michael Fallon would announce Tuesday reinforcements of troops and equipment in response to a defense ministry report that suggested an attack on the south Atlantic archipelago was more likely, the Sun said.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman confirmed Michael Fallon was due to make an announcement to the Commons Defense Committee today.
A Whitehall source told the Sun: “The defense secretary’s decision reflects operational judgments and the increased nature of the threat. We want the people of the Falklands to know they are uppermost in our thinking.”
The Falklands are protected by only four RAF Typhoon fighters, some Rapier surface-to-air missiles and about 1,200 troops, supported by a naval warship that visits throughout the year.
The long-lasting dispute over the British overseas territory, which Argentina calls Las Malvinas, has re-emerged under the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in recent years.
The sovereignty of the Falklands, which have been a British overseas territory since 1833, has been widely disputed for centuries and led to an Argentinian invasion in 1982 claiming the lives of 907 people.
Just two weeks ago, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond expressed his concern that Britain is being dragged back into a Cold War with Russia which poses the “single greatest threat to our security.”
Russia: We have ‘FAR MORE’ right to Crimea than Britain has to Falklands
Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, posted a pretty controversial tweet on Twitter last night after Philip Hammond denounced Russia’s “illegal annexation” of Crimea.
Mr. Pushkov tweeted in Russian: “Attention London: Crimea has far more reason to be in Russia than the Falklands have to be part of Great Britain.”
Pushkov’s comments came as a response to Mr. Hammond calling the annexation of Crimea peninsula by Russia from Ukraine as a “blatant breach of international law”. Mr. Hammond also said: “It showed total disregard for Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and I condemn it in the strongest terms.”
A year after the annexation, Putin admitted in an interview aired on Sunday that he indeed ordered the Russian soldiers to execute a well-planned operation to take over Crimea. Furthermore, Putin admitted in the interview that “we were ready to do this” when asked about his willingness to ready Russia’s nuclear forces.
Right after the process of annexation was complete, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the Russian move was just an unacceptable as Britain’s hold on the Falklands.
“The Malvinas have always belonged to Argentina,” she said, referring to the islands by its Spanish name. “Crimea once belonged to the Soviet Union and was then given by [former Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev to the Ukrainians.”
Evgeni Solovyov, a retired Russian Army General and a Military Strategies and Technologies expert told ValueWalk: “This whole situation feels like something dangerous is brewing up. Russia’s recent actions prove that Putin doesn’t care about the consequences at this point. He has gone too far.” He added: “What we also see is Putin trying to make friends with as many leaders as he can. And to be honest, he’s making some progress.”