Robert Gates: military cuts will end UK's global role
Britain can no longer be a full military partner of the United States, says former US defence secretary
THE spending cuts imposed on British armed forces will mean the UK can no longer be a full military partner of the United States, a former US defence secretary has warned.
Robert Gates, who served under Presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, said the cuts would limit the UK's ability to be a major player on the world stage.
He singled out cuts to the Navy as particularly damaging, noting that for the first time since World War One Britain did not have an operational aircraft carrier.
While the Ministry of Defence insists Britain still has the fourth largest defence budget in the world, it plans to cut 20,000 personnel from the Army, 6,000 from the Navy and 5,000 from the RAF by 2020.
"With the fairly substantial reductions in defence spending in Great Britain, what we're finding is that it won't have full spectrum capabilities and the ability to be a full partner as they have been in the past," Gates told BBC Radio 4's /Today/ programme.
His comments come a month after General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, warned that Britain could be left with the "spectre" of a hollowed-out force.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond conceded last week that Army recruitment represented a "big challenge", but said there was not a crisis.
Many voices have warned of the scale of the government's defence cuts, says Jonathan Beale, defence correspondent for BBC News. But it will be harder to ignore that of Gates, a man who served two US presidents of very different political persuasions, and oversaw the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Given the unpopularity of the wars during his tenure, some may now be breathing a sigh of relief. But that's not true for senior politicians and military brass inside the MoD. They value being so close to the most powerful military nation on earth," says Beale.
Gates's intervention is unlikely to reverse the cuts, he adds, but it will wound Britain's pride.