Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 15:00 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 15:00 | SYDNEY

What the UK defence cuts mean for us


Sam Roggeveen


20 October 2010 10:47

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced some pretty savage cuts to the UK defence budget overnight. The Guardian has collected the documentation here, and here's the BBC's summary of the major points. Some implications for Australia and the Asia Pacific region come to mind:  

  1. Britain's ability to undertake large-scale ground-force interventions will be reduced. In turn, that means the chances of coalition military operations on the scale of the Iraq war have declined. With Iraq still fresh in the mind, such operations are unlikely anyway. But memories fade fast, so the fact that the capacity for these missions is lower (rather than just the will) is significant.
  2. The slow marginalisation of nuclear weapons in Britain's strategic mindset continues, with a Trident replacement delayed and the stockpile to be reduced by 25%. But Matt Yglesias is right that Britain's continued attachment to nuclear weapons weakens the case for non-proliferation in our region: 'What message does it send to...regional powers when medium-sized countries facing no conventional security threat and benefiting from explicit American security guarantees insist that they need nuclear arsenals''
  3. Britain will build two aircraft carriers but will mothball the first one within three or four years, perhaps offering it for sale around 2020. These ships will be second only in size to America's super-carriers (see animation below), and it requires a large and capable navy to operate them. If HMS Queen Elizabeth were put up for sale, India would be an obvious customer. Or maybe Japan'