Washington (AFP) Feb 6, 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron rejected on Sunday the notion that Britain would lost clout on the international stage as a result of severe defense cuts.
"I don't accept that for one single moment. And I'd like to take this opportunity on a US television station to say very clearly, Britain is maintaining its world role," Cameron told CNN.
"You don't need quite so many tanks when you're not facing the Soviet Army that's going to roll across Europe. It's right to make change. Change makes you stronger, more relevant and more powerful in the world, and that's what we've done."
The British government unveiled a sweeping defense review in October that included axing its fleet of Harrier jets and retiring the Ark Royal aircraft carrier early.
Some 17,000 service personnel are to be scrapped from the army, navy and air force by 2015 as the defense ministry struggles to meet an eight percent budget cut over the next five years.
The austerity measures have led some observers and critics to question whether Britain might have to scale back future military operations and accept a more limited international role.
But Cameron insisted this would not be the case and said Britain's extensive network of embassies and diplomats, its so-called "soft power," more than made up for any perceived loss of firepower.
"Britain is an absolutely front-ranked player, and will remain so," he said.
On Tuesday, Britain revealed that its economy slumped unexpectedly in the fourth quarter of 2010, giving ammunition to critics who argue that Cameron is cutting too much, too fast.
But Cameron insisted the cuts were necessary and insisted his coalition government was doing it in a way that supports growth.
"We can't ignore what is in front of us, which is, you know, the biggest budget deficit of any advanced country," he said.
"Even as we're making cuts in Britain, we're protecting the science budget, we're boosting the number of apprenticeships, we're cutting welfare rolls so actually we can put money into transport infrastructure and improving the productive capacity of the economy."
earlier related report
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen cautioned that a dramatic reduction in defence spending would seriously diminish Europe's ability to respond to crises and risked alienating the United States.
"As I speak, fast-moving events are unfolding in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa," Rasmussen told the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of leaders in the defence field.
"The outcome of this turmoil remains unclear, its long-term consequences unpredictable. But one thing we know: old certainties no longer hold, tectonic plates are shifting," he said.
The Arab world has been rocked by popular revolts in recent weeks that have led to the ouster of Tunisia's autocratic leader, shaken the 30-year rule of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and prompted government shake-ups in Jordan and Yemen.
"At stake today is not just the world economy, but the world order. So why, now of all times, should Europe conclude that it no longer needs to invest in defence?"
The United States accounted for just under half of NATO's total defence spending 10 years ago, but the country's share has grown to 75 percent today, the head of the 28-nation alliance said.
He encouraged Europeans to make better use of their money as well as pool and share military capabilities in a time of austerity across the continent -- a strategy he defined as "smart defence."
Defence spending by NATO's European members has decreased by 45 billion euros over the past two years, the equivalent of Germany's entire annual budget, Rasmussen said.
Citing a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, he noted that China tripled its defence spending over the past decade while in India it increased by almost 60 percent.
"We risk a Europe increasingly adrift from the United States," he said. "If Europe becomes unable to make an appropriate contribution to global security, then the United States might look elsewhere for reliable defence partners."
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NATO chief warns Europe over defence cuts
Munich, Germany (AFP) Feb 4, 2011
NATO's chief chided European governments Friday over their shrinking military budgets, warning that it would leave Europe weaker in a fast-moving world marked by turmoil in the Arab world. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen cautioned that a dramatic reduction in defence spending would seriously diminish Europe's ability to respond to crises and risked alienating the United States. " ... read more
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