RUSI: Will the new government fund Britain’s position in the world?

The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government must address the most basic question affecting the Defence Review and Britain's position in the world 'how much is the nation prepared to pay for defence?', according to a Future Defence Review Working Paper from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

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'The Defence Review:Capability Questions for the New Government', a new RUSI report suggests that Britain is at a 'tipping point' and seriously needs to consider future military capabilities and position in the world by addressing  the central question: will defence spending be increased in real terms?

'The UK is currently the fourth biggest defence spender in the world but the ninth largest economy. In other words, the country pays more for defence than its world economic standing justifies. The dilemma turns on the retention of world status; if the taxpayer is unprepared to fund defence at current levels (2.3 per cent GDP), Britain will be unable to prevent its dwindling international influence. The UK could make moderate defence cuts or even slash defence spending to the NATO European average of 1.65 per cent. Either way, large cuts could be made if Britain abandoned its predilection for perceived world influence,' the report outlines.

Although a broad political consensus on national military strategy exists - forming a policy basis for the defence review - the RUSI paper warns that current operations in Afghanistan constrain radical thinking. Written by Michael Codner, director of Military Science at RUSI, the paper also highlights questions about scale and balance of key military capabilities for the future, which will be 'limited by affordability'.

'A corollary of agreement to the strategic premises... is that the new government must be prepared to pay for the kind of defence capability Britain needs to ensure its place in the world. So far there has been no clear commitment to outlining exactly how the desired British defence posture will be funded and supported.'

'The major choice for the defence review is between continental and maritime military strategies - a choice that will affect the future of British defence,' writes Codner.

According to the paper, the urgent need to address the economic situation and the ongoing war in Afghanistan present the new government with a hard strategic choice between continental expeditionary capability - equipping the UK's Armed Forces to conduct future operations similar to Afghanistan only - or a maritime expeditionary strategy which would confirm the case for aircraft carriers and equip fewer, more specialist, agile land units. The options, will ultimately be determined by affordability and the priorities of the new coalition government

To view in full, 'The Defence Review: Capability Questions for the New Government', and learn more about the Future Defence Review series, please visit


1. For all enquiries please contact Daniel Sherman

2. A copy of 'The Defence Review: A path from political consensus to military capabilities' can be viewed online at

3. Michael Codner is Director of Military Sciences at RUSI. His work and that of his department covers all aspects of the nature, creation and purpose of military forces. Before joining RUSI, he was a Defence Fellow at King's College London and a lecturer in strategy and operational art at the United States Naval War College as a Royal Navy Officer.

4. The next RUSI conference assessing the Future Defence Review 'Time for Trade-Offs: SDR 2010' is on 14 June 2010. For more information, please visit

5. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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