British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says London needs to “decisively” increase its military budget after leaving the European Union (EU) to satisfy US President Donald Trump’s demands of more spending while also developing a viable deterrent force against Russia and China.
Trump has long threatened NATO allies to either step up spending or don’t count on US military assistance at the time of war.
Hunt said the UK should commit more of its GDP to defense if it wanted to remain close friends with Washington.
He said it was not sustainable to expect America to keep spending 4 percent of its GDP on defense while other members of the Western military pact spent only one or two percent.
“I believe it is time for the next strategic defense and security review to ask whether, over the coming decade, we should decisively increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defense,” he added.
“The outcome of such investment should demonstrate beyond doubt that when we say Britain stands for the defense of democratic values, when we promise never to leave our great ally, the United States, to perform this task alone, then we are as good as our word and in doing so we encourage other democracies who share our values to follow suit.”
“For these and other reasons I believe it is time for the next strategic defense and security review to ask whether, over the coming decade, we should decisively increase the proportion of GDP we devote to defense,” he said at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet at the Mansion House on Monday.
Hunt noted that, rather than “plugging gaps” in existing plans, the additional funding should be spent on developing new potentials in the British armed force with a special focus on cyber warfare and artificial intelligence.
“The new domains of space and cyber and the immense capabilities of artificial intelligence will transform the conduct of warfare,” he said.
Last year Trump said he had threatened his NATO counterparts that he would withdraw from the alliance if they fail to meet his demands.
The call for more spending came as Hunt himself admitted that the UK was already paying almost 20 percent of the EU’s total defense spending and that British forces shouldered a “hugely disproportionate share” of key capabilities such as heavy lift transport aircraft.
Countering China, Russia
Elsewhere, Hunt said the spending increase would also help London better prepare to counter the ever-growing influence of Russia and China.
“We are in a multipolar world without the assurance provided by unquestioned American dominance,” he said. “We face a more aggressive Russia and a more assertive China.”
“We simply do not know what the balance of power in the world will be in 25 years time,” he continued.
Hunt named hypersonic missiles as one of the main dangers in the event of a war. Russia tested its hypersonic missile warhead last year while China is known to have been working on its own hypersonic weapon for quite some time.
“The conflicts of tomorrow could well start with a cyber attack, then escalate into precision strikes by hypersonic missiles followed by swarms of unmanned aircraft,” he said.
Labour slams Hunt
Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party’s shadow defense secretary, Nia Griffith, said Hunt’s remarks were purely political.
“Jeremy Hunt has been a Cabinet Minister since 2010. Since then the Tories have cut defense spending by £9 billion in real terms. If he was so bothered, you’d have thought he might have said something a bit sooner?” she asked on Twitter.
Hunt is viewed as the favorite to replace Prime Minister Theresa May once she resigns after Brexit. May, whose divorce agreement with the EU has been rejected by lawmakers three times, has pledged to step down once a deal is finally reached.