The cuts to the number of army personnel are being blamed on austerity. They might just as well be blamed on the outdated Cold War thinking of our leaders.
More than 20 Tory MPs are expected to rebel in the Commons later today over plans to cut 20,000 regular army troops and replace them with 30,000 army reserves.
The rebels are proposing an amendment to a coalition defence bill aimed at delaying the cuts until further discussion has taken place.
The concerns reflect those of the army’s top brass, with chief of the defence staff General Sir David Richards saying in June that the cuts would “seriously damage” Britain’s chances of success in future wars.
Under the government’s plans, the number of Army personnel will drop to 82,000 by 2020 – down from 102,000 in 2010.
The current defence budget is £34.3bn, and will fall to £33bn in 2014-15 as a result of cuts to the defence budget announced by George Osborne in March.
In these straightened times cuts are ‘inevitable’, I hear you say. And yet, as a country we are still planning to spend £1.86bn a year on the renewal of Trident – a sum greater than Osborne’s proposed cuts.
According to a costing commissioned by a cross-party group of MPs – which included former defence secretaries Malcolm Rifkind, Labour’s Des Brown and Menzies Campbell – in total the full cost of replacing Trident will be a whopping £83.5bn.
In other words, there is money available for the purposes of defence; it’s just that the money is being used on nukes, which we can never use, as opposed to the army, which we very often do use.
As for dealing with the contemporary security threat, back in 2009 a letter sent to The Times signed by a group of senior military officers spelt out just how useless nuclear weapons are in dealing with the contemporary conflicts:
“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism.”
That’s right, we are spending 83 billion pounds on something that is ‘completely useless’ against the type of threat Britain now faces – terrorism, failed states, extremism etc.
It’s hard to see the logic for the renewal of Trident at a time when budgets are so squeezed that regular army troops need to be cut: regular troops which do a vital job versus a weapons system that can never be deployed and which does little to deter the modern threat: one imagines that the presence of nukes is likely to encourage rather than deter the average suicide bomber.
The cuts to the number of army personnel are being blamed on austerity. They might just as well be blamed on the outdated Cold War thinking of our leaders.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.