Yesterday, the UK National Defence Association released the latest in a series of reports on Britain’s armed forces. Titled “A Compelling Necessity,” it makes the case for an increase in British defense spending, in spite of the economic downturn, in order to restore and preserve Britain’s defenses.
Of particular importance is the statement by economist Irwin Stelzer, who correctly notes in the report’s foreword that, while the U.S. and Britain face the same threats – international terrorism and a nuclear-armed North Korea and Iran, among others – Britain needs to shore up its forces if the Special Relationship is to endure. That relationship is very deep, but if Britain irrevocably became a free rider on the security provided by the U.S., the relationship would be in peril, and the world would become a more dangerous place.
It is precisely because the Heritage Foundation has long recognized this danger that it supports both NATO – which came into existence to ensure that the burdens of transatlantic security were born by both the U.S. and Europe – and, particularly, a close and cooperative relationship between the U.S. and Britain, with each side recognizing its security responsibilities to the other.
Part of this responsibility is ensuring that both allies fund their armed forces adequately: here, the Labour government has, as we have emphasized, done too little. Another part of the responsibility is to cooperate for mutual and common benefit. Here, the U.S. has been slow to act: the Senate has yet to consider the U.S.-U.K. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, in spite of the fact that it is backed by the Obama Administration, key Republican Senators, and all major parties in Britain.
Labour’s underfunding of its forces in the middle of two wars that they fought side-by-side with the U.S. is a very serious charge against its record. But the Senate’s delay in considering the Defense Treaty has also done no service to the Special Relationship, or to the British and American armed forces that would benefit from the Treaty. As Britain moves slowly towards a long-overdue review of its defenses, the time is ripe for the U.S. to clear the decks of its own unfinished business and act on the Treaty.