The UK Telegraph reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron “has refused to meet demands by Barack Obama that Britain commits to spending 2 per cent of its national income on defense for the next five years.”
Actually, Cameron’s remarks, delivered to President Obama at the G7 summit in Germany, were a bit less harsh than the Telegraph characterizes them. He did not flatly refuse to meet the desired military spending target; he said he could offer no guarantees ahead of an upcoming review by the British government.
Although military spending cuts are in the wind, there is a great deal of pressure on Cameron to meet that 2 percent NATO target, which he did pledge to fund through the remainder of the current year. The Financial Times relates suspicions from critics that Cameron might use some dicey accounting to claim he has met the 2 percent target while actually falling up to a billion dollars short, including a “plan to declare war pensions as defense spending.”
Cameron’s agreement with NATO was to “aim for” a certain level of spending, but he might not be shooting for a bullseye.
“I will say exactly the same as I’m saying now which is that we’ve kept our two per cent promise. We are one of the few countries to do it. We’re having a spending review in the autumn and we’ll announce the results at that time,” the Telegraph quotes Cameron as saying.
He also defended his government’s high level of spending on foreign aid: “The point about the 0.7 per cent target was that this was a promise that was made a meeting like this to the poorest countries in the world and I am proud about the fact that unlike many other countries Britain has kept its promise. If you make a promise to the poorest people in the world you should keep it.”
Critics have noted that some of those “poorest people in the world” seem to be essentially funneling UK humanitarian aid into their military machines, maintaining high levels of military spending while foreign sugar daddies send relief money to care for their most destitute citizens.
The Telegraph notes that last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Aston Carter “warned that Britain will risk becoming ‘disengaged’ from the World and lose the ability to ‘punch above its weight’ if it fails to commit to spending 2 per cent of the nation’s income on defense.”
So much for that “peace dividend” the Obama administration was so fond of touting, back when the president claimed he had international terrorism “decimated and on the run,” and all of America’s overseas military operations were wrapping up.
Bloomberg Business reports that Cameron promised to send another 125 British troops to Iraq on training missions to help them step up their disappointing efforts against ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also attending the G7 summit, requested the additional trainers. The British deployment to Iraq would be nearly doubled by the new troops.