THE BLOG

Security Means Keeping to 2% Defence Spending Target

04/02/2015 14:54 GMT | Updated 06/04/2015 10:59 BST

Britain faces a growing and ever more complex range of current and future threats to its national security. Many of these were unforeseen, such as the Ukrainian crisis and the rapid growth of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Others were predicted but are just as dangerous - cyber-attacks, new endemic disease outbreaks, lone wolf terrorism. All of these developments, as well as others yet to emerge, will present major challenges to the next Government. There are no simple solutions to these problems but to pretend they don't exist or that they are of no relevance to us would be a fundamental error.

Our diplomatic and development activities make a major contribution to reducing instability. The UK needs to continue to build coalitions and use our influence to promote dialogue and security. Reducing poverty and improving governance can tackle many of the causes of conflict. We should be very proud of the role our diplomats and development workers have played in making the world a safer place.

What we must also recognise is the contribution our armed forces continue to make to protecting us all.

Of course we all know that public spending is under pressure and we cannot ignore fiscal realities. Only a strong economy will provide the resources for the right security and defence policies. But, apart from the direct threat to our security, we also need to understand the very negative impact that conflict can have on our economic prospects. Look at the damage the Ukrainian crisis has done to the German economy at precisely the time we need a strong German recovery. Security and prosperity go hand in hand - you can't have one without the other.

This is why we should ensure that we have effective and properly resourced diplomatic, development and defence activities.

The recent Chatham House/YouGov poll shows that this view is shared by the British public; 64% want defence spending maintained at its current level or increased - only 22% want it reduced. We should not ignore these views, just as we cannot ignore the evidence of growing threats to our national security.

That is why the right course of action for the next British Government is to devote at least 2% of our GDP to defence, including a real terms annual increase in our defence equipment budget of at least 1%.