By Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent
Daily Telegraph – 9 November 2017
Britain risks losing its place at NATO’s top table if it continues military cuts, a senior US general has warned. Lt Gen Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, said the UK would be unable to keep up its international commitments if forces were cut further.
A former head of the British Army described his remarks as “well founded” and “timely”. Lt Gen Hodges spoke as Gavin Williamson, the new Defence Secretary, attended his first NATO summit since taking the job last week. Lt Gen Hodges said Britain was a leader in the alliance, but he told the BBC he could not see how the UK’s military could keep its international commitments if it "got any smaller”. He said:
“It’s a leader in the alliance and if it can’t sustain the level of commitments it’s fulfilling right now, then I think it risks going into a different sort of category.”
The Government has pledged to keep hitting the NATO target of spending two per cent of GDP on the military. But the Ministry of Defence is trying to find £20bn of savings over the next decade to buy new submarines, warships, aircraft and vehicles. Service chiefs have drawn up cost-cutting options, including axing troops and ships, after being told to save money.
Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff, said:
“I think [Lt Gen Hodges] is right. The UK has always been a significant ally of the United States and to use his own words, a leader in NATO. We have always been a significant ally and leader in NATO because we have had a significant range of capability available.”
He said the US Army was particularly keen Britain should keep the ability to deploy a division-sized force into the field. Without that, Britain would enter a lesser category of nations like the Dutch or Canadians, who can only deploy a brigade.
Julian Lewis MP, chair of the Commons Defence Committee, also said Lt Gen Hodges was “absolutely right”. He said:
“The bare minimum of two per cent of GDP on defence is far too little and that’s why we are getting hollowed-out forces.”