Wednesday 3rd January 2018
Michael Fallon, Secretary of State of Defence and Conservative MP for Sevenoaks
Two years ago, in 2015, we conducted an ambitious Strategic Defence Security Review and committed to continue to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence. Not only have we done what we said but we have also grown our defence budget, year-on-year, by at least 0.5% ahead of inflation.
NATO figures, published this summer, confirmed we are spending more than two percent and also meeting the target to spend 20 per cent of that on new equipment. We are using that growing budget to purchase, develop and build a raft of high-end kit. From P8s and drones to Apache helicopters and armoured vehicles. From fifth generation F35 fighters to two aircraft carriers – the most powerful ships ever built in Britain. And we are building new nuclear Dreadnought submarines to maintain our ultimate nuclear deterrent.
We are adapting to an age of information warfare, too. Investing in equipment with sensors and receptors to handle a superabundance of information. Transforming our military structures to cope with the virtual environment. Bringing our Royal Signals and Intelligence Corps together under a shared command to collate, analyse and disseminate cyber information more efficiently and effectively. And training a new generation of cyber warriors to strengthen our networks and tackle vulnerabilities.
As well as investing, we are also acting. Performing a pivotal role in the 71-member counter-Daesh global coalition attacking Daesh positions with our aircraft, training 50,000 local forces, and using our cyber capabilities to disrupt their activities in Syria and Iraq. A contribution of air strikes second only to the US. It is striking to think that when I took office three years ago, Daesh were closing in on the gates to Baghdad. Today, they have been defeated in Mosul.
But that is far from the UK’s only operation. We are going global. In Afghanistan, we have committed to increasing troop numbers, building capability, training the next generation of Afghan officers, and strengthened the Afghan air force. In Africa, we are training Somalians to fight Al Shabaab and assisting South Sudan in the midst of an appalling humanitarian crisis. We have more than 10,000 British servicemen and women deployed on more than 25 operations around the world.
So Britain has delivered and Britain is delivering. But we will do so in partnership because we are stronger when we work together.
Today, nations are facing a wave of multiple, concurrent, diverse global threats from Islamist extremism; from North Korea testing missiles; a more aggressive Russia, as we have seen in Ukraine and Syria; Iran sponsoring terror; and the insidious spread of misinformation or cyber-attacks. Such challenges demand an international response.
We are bolstering our bonds with NATO – the cornerstone to defend and deter Russian aggression; leading NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Estonia with 800 British troops; sending Typhoons to Romania to police the Black Sea skies; and using the biggest Navy in Europe to lead half of NATO’s maritime missions in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Aegean.
The US remains our strongest ally. We are integrated at every level, working in each other’s headquarters, flying each other’s ships and planes, collaborating on everything including nuclear capabilities – sharing a common missile compartment – and intelligence. With fifth generation F35s in the UK and the prospect of US F35 fighters flying from the decks of our new carriers, and vice-versa, the trajectory of this relationship is only going one way.
Some people wonder whether we are witnessing the decline and fall of the West. Whether Western values are up to overcoming those new dangers. We can, we must, and we will. We are not attacked because we have failed – but because we have succeeded in spreading our values and beliefs across the world.
No two nations are better equipped to make the West’s case than the US and the UK. We share the same values of democracy, justice and freedom. And we have also championed the causes of liberty, the free market and technological innovation. We gave people greater opportunities to live wealthier, healthier, happier, lives. And if we present our case strongly enough, we will do more than just build resilience in our own countries. We might awaken the hopes of those living under oppressive regimes.