Yesterday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled plans for an additional £5 billion ($6 billion) UK defence boost that aims to shore up Britain’s defences in the face of growing global threats from China and Russia.
A part of the 2023 Integrated Review Refresh (IR23), the UK defence buildup is believed to stem from recent comments made by the UK defence minister Ben Wallace who warned the prime minister at the beginning of the year that the British military was “hollowed out and underfunded.”
According to an official statement from Sunak’s office, the $6 billion investment will aim to resupply British ammo supplies, modernize the country’s nuclear defence system, and provide funding for the next stage of the AUKUS submarine program. Sunak said the following about the spending boost:
“As the world becomes more volatile and competition between states becomes more intense, the UK must be ready to stand our ground. By investing in our armed forces for the long-term, we will be ready for the challenges of today and of the future.”
Whilst these plans are short-term, the IR23 is also laying the groundwork to boost UK defence spending in the long term, and it will eventually aim to make up 2.5 per cent of Britain’s GDP.
The groundwork for the overhaul of the integrated review originally began under the leadership of Liz Truss, who is said to have made calls to label the Chinese state as a strategic “threat” similar to Russia following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
The 2021 Integrated Review Refresh described China as both a “systemic competitor” and the “biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security”.
The spending will also be allocated to setting up a new and improved National Protective Security Authority, laying the groundwork for an Economic Deterrence Initiative, doubling funding for a government-wide China Capabilities program, and forming a new Integrated Security Fund worth more than $1.2 billion.
The Emerging Threats to UK Defence from Russia and China
This year’s Integrated Review Refresh (IR23) was launched to deal with growing geopolitical threats from around the world, which, according to the UK, ranged from “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine” to China’s “economic coercion” as well as growing competition between various other countries.
“We have seen all too clearly in the last year how global crises impact us at home,” Sunak said in a statement, “with Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine driving up energy and food prices. We will fortify our national defences, from economic security to technology supply chains and intelligence expertise, to ensure we are never again vulnerable to the actions of a hostile power.”
Britain is not alone in its Defence Spending Boost
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which recently passed the one-year mark, has sent shockwaves across the world but has hit Europe particularly hard with a new refugee crisis combined with fears of a wider escalation of the conflict.
Britain is far from the only country in Europe to be spending dramatic amounts on shoring up their defences; a number of other states are doing the same, especially those bordering Ukraine or who are in the line of fire should the war escalate.
Poland, for example, has struck a deal for 250 M1 Abrams tanks to overhaul its armoured defences. Romania has done the same, albeit on a smaller scale, and is said to be laying the groundwork for a deal that will see 54 Abrams tanks delivered to the country.
In recent weeks, it has been revealed by Lithuanian intelligence services that Russia has the capacity to maintain the gruelling war for another two years single-handedly. This doesn’t take into account the growing concerns surrounding whether China will make the decision to send military aid to the Kremlin, which will undoubtedly fuel the flames of this war for many more years to come.