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Pentagon Praises Record UK Defense Budget Hike, Urges Other 'Free Nations' to Follow Suit

© AP Photo / Marcos Moreno / The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, arrives at the British territory of Gibraltar on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018
The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, arrives at the British territory of Gibraltar on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 - Sputnik International
The British military is Washington’s primary partner in some of its most important missions around the globe, and London’s planned exit from the European Union is likely to push the two nations even closer.

The new acting Pentagon chief hailed London’s decision to "significantly increase defense spending", saying it sets an example for other US allies. The United Kingdom is already the second-highest defense spender in the NATO alliance, after the United States.

“The UK is our most stalwart and capable ally, and this increase in spending is indicative of their commitment to NATO and our shared security. With this increase, the UK military will continue to be one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Their commitment to increased defense funding should be a message to all free nations that the most capable among us can – and must - do more to counter emerging threats to our shared freedoms and security,” acting Pentagon chief Christopher C. Miller said in a statement Wednesday.

The development comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday a defense spending increase, the largest for the island nation since the end of Cold War. Over the next four years, an additional £16.5 billion ($21.9 billion) will be dedicated to a slew of new advanced projects, including new warships, the Tempest future combat air program, and the establishment of a “cyber force” and a British space command to rival the US Space Force, alongside a hefty investment in research.

“For decades, the UK government has pared and trimmed our defense budget […] I have refused to pick up the scalpel yet again,” Johnson told Parliament remotely from quarantine induced by COVID-19 exposure. “I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defense of the realm must come first.”

“The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies. To achieve this, we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board,” he added.

Johnson’s new pledge, which amounts to about £4 billion per year, will swell the defense budget by over 10%.

Third of Member States Still Fail to Meet Defence Spending Target, NATO Says

In October, the NATO alliance published its annual report on the defense spending of each of its 30 member states, revealing that just one-third of the pact’s signatories are actually meeting their pledged budget goal of 2% of gross domestic product. Meeting the goal has become a major concern for the administration of US President Donald Trump, who has promised to punish member states such as Germany that have failed to meet that goal, which is claimed to cause the US an extra burden.

With its colossal defense budget that dwarfs the rest of the globe’s, the United States takes the top spot, spending 3.87% of its GDP on the military. The United Kingdom is a distant second-place, in terms of the raw monetary amount, but is outpaced in terms of GDP percentage dedicated to defense by Greece, which spent 2.58% of its GDP on its military in fiscal year 2020.

The British military is involved in much of the efforts of the US military around the globe, including the coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and Washington’s efforts to prevent China from establishing control over islands in the South China Sea. The recent commissioning of the UK's largest-ever warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, is a major part of that effort, and its first official patrol is expected to be close to Chinese shores.

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