New UK prime minister pledges sharp rise in military spending

London is committed to increasing its outlay on defense to 2.5% of GDP, Keir Starmer has said

The UK is set to boost its military capabilities and plans to gradually increase defense spending to 2.5% of its GDP, new Prime Minister Keir Starmer said on Tuesday as he departed for a NATO summit in Washington.

Starmer has pledged to publish a roadmap for defense expenditure following calls from both the UK military and NATO states to clarify his policy, his office has said.

“I am committed to that 2.5% [of gross domestic product] within our fiscal rules, but that strategic review needs to come first,” he told Reuters ahead of the NATO summit. His predecessor Rishi Sunak had promised earlier this year that London would reach this target by 2030.

According to Starmer’s office, the government will launch a strategic review next week to “determine the future defense posture” of the UK and the military capabilities it needs. The timeline for the review or when the spending goal might be achieved has not been specified, however.

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UK barely able to defend itself – ex-military official

Many NATO states have for years struggled to reach an agreed threshold of 2% of GDP for defense spending, but the push has gained momentum since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014 and especially after the launch of Russia’s military operation in 2022.

Starmer, who became the UK prime minister after his party’s landslide victory in the general election last week, reiterated that London’s commitment to Kiev remains unchanged.

Britain has been one of Ukraine’s biggest backers in the conflict with Russia, pledging £12.5 billion (around $16 billion) in support for Kiev, including £7.6 billion (around $9.7 billion) in military aid, since February 2022.

Meanwhile, recent military research revealed that Britain’s armed forces are in such a poor state that they are barely able to defend the country, with deficiencies spread across its various branches. 

Rob Johnson, director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Center, told the FT last week that the UK was not prepared to fight in an armed conflict of “any scale” and would run out of ammunition rapidly.

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