UK Prime Minister Says Robert Gates ‘Wrong’ About British Defense

Prime Minister David Cameron visiting British troops in AfghanistanFrom Raf Sanchez, Telegraph:  David Cameron has sharply rejected a claim by the former US defence secretary that the government’s military cuts will prevent Britain from being a “full partner” with America.

Robert Gates, who served under both Barack Obama and George W Bush, warned that without an operational aircraft carrier Britain would no longer have the “full spectrum capabilities” the US has relied upon.

“With the fairly substantial reductions in defence spending in Great Britain, what we’re finding is that it won’t have full spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past,” Mr Gates told the BBC.

His claims were denied by the prime minister, who insisted that Britain remained a “first-class player in terms of defence.”

“I don’t agree with him. I think he has got it wrong,” Mr Cameron said, adding that Britain has the world’s fourth largest defence budget after the US, China and Russia. . . .

Barry Pavel, a former senior defence official who worked closely with Mr Gates, said while Britain and the US would remain allies the bond would be weakened if British forces were unable to participate in certain conflicts because of cuts.

“There’s nothing like sharing risks as well as responsibilities. If you don’t have troops next to ours, taking the same risks, then it’s not a full meaningful alliance,” he told The Telegraph.

Mr Pavel, now a director at the Atlantic Council think tank, said that Mr Gates had likely focused on aircraft carriers because they were a “particularly valuable tool” for projecting power without relying on airbases in other countries.

From BBC:  The Ministry of Defence said the UK – like the US – had had to take “tough decisions” on defence spending but had “the best trained and best equipped armed forces outside the US. . . .”

And former Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the Today programme Britain was “one of only four or five countries inside Nato” to meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

“America is the world’s biggest economy with the world’s biggest defence budget. We’re the world’s eighth biggest economy with the fourth biggest defence budget, so certainly we’re pulling our weight on that,” he said.

Image: Prime Minister David Cameron visiting British troops in Afghanistan (photo: ISAF)