Boost Britain’s NATO spending so US will ‘take us seriously,’ says peer

© Darren Staples
America will only treat Britain as a serious global player if the UK raises the share of its GDP contributed to NATO each year, according to former Labour Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen.

Owen told an audience at the Swiss-based Progress Foundation that increasing the symbolic contribution of gross domestic product (GDP) to NATO from 2 percent to 2.5 percent per year would show the US it is a serious player.

It would also help convince Europe, still smarting from the Brexit vote, that Britain is serious about security.

Over the next four years, besides adding the present UK EEAS budget to our contribution to NATO, we will need to move as quickly as we can to devoting 2.5 percent of GDP to NATO to be seen as serious,” Owen said in his address.

He warned that “only in a revived NATO, where European countries are no longer as President [Barack] Obama rightly accused us of being ‘freeloaders,’ and we make a greater financial contribution, will Europe redress the imbalance between us and President Putin’s Russian Federation.

Owen insisted the UK must “move as quickly as we can to devoting 2.5 percent of GDP to NATO to be seen as serious.

On the relationship with Europe, Owen argued: “When the EU recognizes that the UK is even more committed to European stability as well as security then Brexit will be seen in a different light as strengthening the wider Europe.

Before committing to an extra 0.5 percent, the British government may want to check it is actually meeting its stated obligations.

In April, the military was accused of using creative accounting to hit the original 2 percent commitment by the Commons Defence Select Committee.

MPs on the committee said then-Chancellor George Osborne and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon could only hit the target by juggling numbers.

The committee said war pensions and intelligence gathering were folded into the defense remit for accounting purposes, despite previously being separate.

The investigators found the inability of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to offer a breakdown of operational spending “remarkable, given the magnitude of the sums involved,” leaving the military exposed to accusations of cooking the books.

The only way that the Ministry of Defence can refute claims of ‘creative accounting’ is to outline, clearly and unambiguously, what the new inclusions are, how much they constitute, and from which department each was previously funded,” the report argues.