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Pentagon Says Military Cuts Won't Sideline Britain

Wednesday, 20 Oct 2010 08:31 PM

 

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* British plan calls for widespread reductions

* Cuts lower than for other government departments

* U.S. concerns may have influenced decision

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department cheered what it called Britain's ability to go on playing a top role in global security despite newly announced plans to cut its army, navy and air force to cap a record budget deficit.

"We are confident that the U.K. will continue to have the capacity to provide top-tier fighting forces in Afghanistan and other future missions in defense of our shared interests and security," Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement_Wednesday, a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled sweeping cutbacks.

"We are pleased that the U.K. clearly intends to maintain its historical role as a leading nation that shapes global security, and the fourth largest military budget in the world," Morrell added.

Britain's armed forces review, the first since 1998, calls for a military with fewer people, fewer ships, fewer aircraft, fewer nuclear warheads and a smaller budget.

The Ministry of Defence's budget of 36.9 billion pounds will be cut by 8 percent in real terms over the next four years, far lower than the average of 25 percent cuts faced by other British government departments.

Senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had fretted publicly that military cutbacks could undercut Britain's ability to help U.S. forces in conflicts worldwide, a factor that may have helped minimize the cuts.

Morrell said the British military had distinguished itself with valor and professionalism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Indeed, we have had no more capable or resolute military ally," he said.

The Pentagon welcomed Britain's decision to maintain defense spending at NATO target levels of two percent of gross domestic product, to boost investment in countering emerging threats and challenges including cyber security and special operations, "and to preserve a robust force capable of projecting power and addressing a wide range of military contingencies."

"We also welcome the U.K.'s decision to maintain its nuclear deterrent, which reinforces NATO's nuclear strategy even as we work together toward our shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons," Morrell said. (Editing by Jerry Norton)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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