Britain to limit its involvement in military operations abroad – MoD

Britain to limit its involvement in military operations abroad – MoD

Robert Gates, who served under US presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, also said that Britain no longer had the complete spectrum of capabilities, meaning its relationship with the US military was shifting. He highlighted the Royal Navy’s lack of an aircraft carrier able to launch strike jets.

“What we have always been able to count on, on this side of the Atlantic, were British forces that had full-spectrum capabilities very much along the lines of our own forces, that they could perform a variety of different missions,” Gates said. “With the fairly substantial reductions in defense spending in Great Britain, what we are finding is they won’t have full-spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past. I also lament that reality.”

The comments suggest Britain’s military downsizing could have a negative impact on the long-standing “special relationship” between Washington and London. This century, Britain has been the United States’ closest partner in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cameron’s coalition government announced heavy defense cuts in 2010 as part of its bid to rein in Britain’s massive deficit.

The defense budget is being slashed by eight percent over four years. Between 2010 and 2020, Britain is reducing the size of its regular military from 178,000 to 147,000, while boosting reservist numbers. But Cameron insisted Britain’s military was still in the front rank.

“I don’t agree with him. I think he has got it wrong,” he said of Gates. “We have the fourth-largest defense budget anywhere in the world. We are investing in future capabilities. We are a first-class player in terms of defense and as long as I am prime minister that is the way it will stay.”

Britain has not been able to launch jets at sea since the flagship Ark Royal was withdrawn in 2010 as part of the cuts.

It will not be able to do so before the new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth — which will be Britain’s biggest-ever ship on the seas — enters service in 2020 with F-35 fighter jets.

Gates said Britain had been the United States’ “primary partner for many decades”. However, with the lack of carrier strike capability, he added: “Those kinds of things, I think, at the end of the day matter.

“I would a lot rather, in a port in the Middle East, have a British-flagged ship and an American-flagged warship than just an American-flagged warship by itself.”
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