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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

UK’s role as serious military player at risk: report

Influential thinktank says the government is seen to be distracted by Brexit and unable to make tough decisions on defence spending

Britain faces a growing threat from Russian forces (pictured) and Moscow's growing influence in the Middle East, according to think tank RUSI  / AFP PHOTO / POOL / YURI KOCHETKOV
Britain faces a growing threat from Russian forces (pictured) and Moscow's growing influence in the Middle East, according to think tank RUSI / AFP PHOTO / POOL / YURI KOCHETKOV

The United Kingdom’s credibility as a serious global military player is being undermined by delays in reshaping its forces in the face of a growing threat from Russia and its growing influence in the Middle East, an influential think-tank said on Tuesday.

Delays in a national security review makes it appear the UK has been distracted by Brexit and unable to make difficult decisions, according to the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).

The delay in publishing military modernisation plans “is now threatening to undermine the UK’s credibility as a serious security actor”, it said in a report released on Tuesday.

A national security review was launched by the UK government last summer to ensure that the UK’s £58 billion security-related funds was aimed at the right targets amid growing threats from Russia and terrorist groups who were linked to a string of attacks in Britain in 2017.

The UK set out its global ambition to remain a major global security player in 2015, promising to confront threats from conventional state forces, cyberattacks, and terrorists. The Rusi report said those commitments can only be paid for by making “unrealistic assumptions” about cutting costs.

Media reports have suggested that ships, submarines and aircraft are in line for cutbacks despite growing threats from Russia. Defence chiefs have been given until the summer to press their case.

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Moscow has strengthened its position in the Middle East through its “ruthless” use of force in support of the Syrian regime and has sought to subvert western elections through cyber attacks.

While Russia poses one looming threat, Rusi said the UK must be able to respond on at least two fronts with instability in the south of Europe from the Gulf to the Sahel posing fresh challenges.

“In a rapidly changing world, our planning must be agile to enable us to counter emerging challenges,” a ministry of defence spokesman said.

“Our allies and partners in Nato and across the world share our view that the global security context has become more challenging at a greater pace than anticipated. In light of this, it is only right that we look at our plans again, as many of our allies are also doing.”