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UK urged to raise military budget to counter Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Prime Minister Theresa May walks with Lt Col Paddy Ginn and General Sir Nicholas Carter as she visits 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire, Worcesters and Foresters, and Staffords) at their barracks at Bulford Camp near Salisbury, England. (Photo via Getty Images)

The British armed forces require a significant increase in funding to counter threats posed by Russia, a British parliamentary panel has warned.

In a report released Sunday, the Commons Defense Committee warned that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May needed to raise military spending from 2 percent of the total GDP to 3 percent if it wanted to prevent British forces from becoming “outgunned” by their Russian peers.

This means May needs to save around £20 billion ($26.5bn) a year in other sectors and increase military investment to levels that have only been seen immediately after the end of Cold War.

Dubbed Beyond 2 Percent, the report warned that failure to finance the military at these levels was going to make it “very difficult” to maintain the UK’s long-term strategy to address its military needs.

The committee warned that a lack of vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons and "serious deficiencies in the quantities of armor, armored vehicles and artillery" were some of the key areas that the British was trailing behind Russia, the report added.

The UK also needed to expand its anti-submarine warfare capacity and develop a Royal Navy carrier group that was capable of protecting the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers independent of other countries.

The government was also urged to maintain the target strength of the army at a minimum of 82,000 personnel and adopt a layered air defense system.

Besides the alleged Russian threat, the panel concluded that the budget hike was necessary to address new forms of warfare like cyber-terrorism.

The report comes just weeks ahead of the much-anticipated release of the British ministry of defense’s major review of armed forces’ needs, known as the Modernizing Defense Program (MDP).

"Defense is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government's opportunity to show that it means what it says," added the report.

Members of the Defense Select Committee in the House of Commons warned December last year that the MoD might not be able to fund contracts for new warships, fighter jets and other military equipment in the coming years.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia’s military spending reached £49.9 billion ($66.3bn) in 2017 versus the UK’s £35.5 billion ($47.1bn).

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