US envoy trusts new UK government will keep NATO defence pledge

US envoy trusts new UK government will keep NATO defence pledge
Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, David Cameron, (R) and fellow party member, Boris Johnson, visiting a children's nursery in April, 2015.

BRUSSELS - The US ambassador to NATO said on Friday he was confident that newly re-elected British Prime Minister David Cameron would stick to a NATO defence spending pledge despite expectations that his budget-tightening plans could spell more defence cuts.

Britain is one of only four of NATO's 28 members that meet a target of spending two percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defence, but on current projections, British military spending will fall below that level in the next few years as London tries to rein in a big budget deficit.

US Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute said that, at last September's NATO summit in Wales, Britain had "linked arms with the US government" to win backing for a pledge to halt a decline in NATO defence spending and to move towards raising it.

"There is a lot in the media about this, but I have no indications from British authorities that they will walk away from this," Lute told a news briefing.

"I don't think we have a stronger partner among the 28 (NATO allies) in terms of their commitment to the two percent pledge than the UK. They were present at the creation of the pledge and I believe they will be with us all along the way, so I have confidence in them," he said.

Speaking in general, he said it would be "a very bad sign"if NATO broke its pledge to stop cuts in military spending months after the Wales summit.

Several top US military figures, including US Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, have expressed concern about declining defence spending by Britain, a close US ally which still spends more on defence than any other European NATO member.

Russia's military actions in Ukraine have spurred new determination in NATO to stop defence cuts. Several NATO allies have promised to increase military spending.

The four allies that already meet NATO's two percent goal - Britain, the United States, Greece and Estonia - pledged in Wales they would aim to continue to do so.

However, a British defence think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute, said in March that Britain would spend 1.95 percent of GDP on defence in the 2015/16 financial year and 1.85 percent in 2016/17.

Britain has already cut defence spending by around eight percent in real terms over the last four years.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said before this week's election that the government was committed to spending two percent of GDP on defence, adding that decisions on spending after 2015/16 had yet to be made.

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