LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday former US defence secretary Robert Gates was wrong to say that spending cuts meant Britain’s armed forces were no longer able be a full military partner of the United States.
His blunt response underlined how sensitive his government is to charges that Britain’s close ties with the United States have been undermined by cuts to its military and parliament’s refusal to okay British involvement in any air strikes on Syria. It also reflected his determination to carry out spending cuts aimed at reducing large public debts, which top generals and even senior lawmakers in his own Conservative party have suggested have been too deep.
Britain is the world’s fourth largest military spender after the United States, China and Russia but is cutting the army by 20,000 soldiers over this decade while its navy will lose 6,000 personnel and its air force 5,000. Earlier on Thursday, Gates, who served as defence secretary under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said he lamented the fact that the cuts had limited Britain’s ability to work with the United States.
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