Clinton worried over UK defense spending cuts

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2010 6:37 AM
Clinton worried over UK defense spending cuts

The United States is worried by the military cutbacks being planned by the British government, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in comments broadcast Friday.

Britain, which maintains the second-largest foreign force in Afghanistan, is set to announce deep reductions to defense spending as part its effort to tackle the country's ballooning budget deficit.

Interviewed by the BBC in Brussels on Thursday, Clinton was asked if Washington was concerned over the scale of the prospective cuts. She said she was, emphasizing that the NATO alliance "has to be maintained."

"Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions," she said. "Of course there are cuts that we're making, but then there are new responsibilities, like cyber security or missile defense, that we're going to have to assume."

Clinton added that she hoped that "despite the budgetary pressures that we all feel, we will continue to be committed to our mutual efforts."

Britain's defense spending review is still being finalized and is due to be published next week. The precise details haven't yet been made public, but officials had been seeking reductions of up to 10 percent on the 37 billion pound ($59 billion) Defense Ministry budget between 2011 and 2015.

The scale of the cuts have caused unease across Britain's armed forces. In a letter leaked to a British newspaper last month, British defense minister Liam Fox warned Prime Minister David Cameron that his staff had found that cutting 4 billion pounds from its budget was "financially and intellectually virtually impossible."

"Party, media, military and the international reaction will be brutal if we do not recognize the dangers and continue to push for such draconian cuts at a time when we are at war," Fox was quoted as saying.

The military's top brass, meanwhile, have gone on the offensive to protect their respective services' budgets.

Earlier this year, army chief Gen. David Richards said the war in Afghanistan proved the importance of ground forces, while supporters of the Royal Navy have invoked the challenge of emerging powers such as China to argue for keeping Britain's two planned aircraft carriers. On Monday, Air Marshal Timo Anderson warned that reducing Britain's fast jet capability could leave the country vulnerable to a Sept. 11-style attack.

Cameron's office says it has almost finalized plans for the spending cuts. Asked about Clinton's comments, it stated that "she is absolutely right when she says that each country has to be able to make its appropriate contribution to common defense in NATO and Britain will always do that."