Weapons needed in face of Russia threat, warn MPs

The Commons defence committee said more aircraft, warships, tanks and missiles were needed. Picture: Getty
The Commons defence committee said more aircraft, warships, tanks and missiles were needed. Picture: Getty
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BRITAIN urgently needs to rebuild its defence capabilities “abandoned” at the end of the Cold War in the face of the growing threat from Russia, MPs have warned.

The Commons defence committee said more aircraft, warships, tanks and missiles were needed to provide a convincing deterrent to further aggression by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Impact on the UK’s credibility would be extremely damaging”

MPs’ report

The committee said a failure by the UK to maintain the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence risked undermining the western alliance.

With defence spending set to drop below 2 per cent of GDP after 2015-16 on current plans, the findings will add to the pressure on David Cameron to declare his commitment to the Nato target.

In its report, the committee said the world was “more dangerous and unstable” than at any time since the end of the Cold War, with an advanced military state challenging the borders of European nations for the first time in 20 years.

“The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities eroded since the Cold War,” the report said.

“The requirements are many, including maritime surveillance, nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological warfare training, developing a ballistic missile defence capability, an enhanced navy and air force, a comprehensive carrier strike capability, and full manoeuvre warfare capacity.

“This will involve demonstrating a conventional and nuclear capacity and determination to deter any further threats to the European order.”

After Mr Cameron trumpeted the declaration by Nato members of their commitment to work towards the 2 per cent of GDP spending target at the Wales summit in September, the committee said it was essential that the UK did not drop below that figure.

“The US has made it clear that it perceives the UK’s commitment as the lynchpin of the broader Nato commitment to increase defence spending. And therefore, if the UK were to reduce expenditure, it would undermine the alliance as a whole,” it said.

“We are concerned that, should defence spending in the UK fall below the Nato target of 2 per cent of GDP in 2016-17, the impact on the UK’s credibility as a military ally would be extremely damaging, particularly in the eyes of the US and our European partners.

“It would damage UK leadership in Nato, and Putin’s Russia will be looking very carefully for signs of weakness in Nato.”

The committee said, while Russia could deploy 150,000 troops in 72 hours, it would take Nato six months to match it.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed the finding that the UK’s defence capabilities needed rebuilt as “nonsense”.