With the US army chief warning on UK defence cuts, is Britain’s global position under threat?

Dr John Hulsman is president of John C Hulsman Enterprises, says Yes

Army chief of staff general Raymond Odierno is merely stating the glaringly obvious. During the Prime Minister’s recent January trip to Washington, he was told in no uncertain terms that the confidence of America – Britain’s seminal ally – is eroding, at the same rate as British defence spending dwindles. A Britain that has seen its army shrink by one-fifth of its size since 2010, that has an RAF with just seven combat squadrons compared with 30-plus in the days of the first Gulf War, is a shadow of its former self. Given its hollowing out, it is now more than an open question whether Britain can still manage major military operations on its own; within Nato, only London, Paris, and Washington have this crucial capacity. Without it, it naturally follows that the scope for independent action – and thus an autonomous foreign and security policy – is severely limited. Has London really thought through what it is losing here?

Adam Memon is head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies, says No

Britain’s global position depends most of all on its economic power. A country can only project strength abroad if it has a strong and growing economy at home, so Britain’s continued performance here secures its position at the top level of global diplomacy. The most important component of our defence capacity is an effective nuclear deterrent. The political consensus over the Trident nuclear system means that Britain is still a serious military power. Defence spending is important, and so is maintaining a resolute commitment to Nato. Indeed, Britain still has the fifth largest defence budget in the world and the second biggest in Nato. Ultimately, nobody seriously doubts that Britain would abide by its Nato Article 5 obligations. However, its global position also depends on many other factors that have little to do with defence spending – a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and energy security, to name but two.