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Publication of Government Response

15 September 2016

The Defence Committee publishes the Government Response to the Committee's First Report of Session 2016–17, "Russia: Implications for UK defence and security" in its Fourth Special Report of Session 2016–17 (HC 668).

The Committee welcomes the Government Response to its Report on Russia, published on 5 July, as well as the updates on decisions at the recent Warsaw Summit to strengthen NATO's deterrence and battle-readiness. The original Report contained 24 conclusions and recommendations, most of which have been examined and addressed in detail in the Response.

The Government has agreed with the Committee's analysis of an increasingly assertive Russia, and has accepted the necessity of sending strong signals to Moscow that aggressive moves against NATO states will inevitably lead to effective countermeasures. One such signal was the decision to proceed on 18 July with the long-postponed debate on renewing the fleet of four submarines to maintain the continuous at-sea UK deterrent.

The Committee also welcomes the steps described in the Response to reopen dialogue with Russia in those areas, such as international terrorism, where mutual interests coincide. However, continuing difficulties in expanding the Defence Section of the UK Embassy in Moscow remain a cause for concern. Furthermore the commitment in the Government's Response to increasing Russian language training is inconsistent with severe cuts to the BBC monitoring service which is used by both journalists and civil servants.

The Response also fails to engage fully with the Committee's warning (Conclusion 21) of the risks of offering NATO membership to states which a potential enemy would not believe the Alliance would go to war to defend.

Defence Committee Chairman, Julian Lewis MP, commented:

"Our comprehensive Report—which called for the UK to restore our defences, review our deterrence and reopen our dialogue with Russia from a position of strength—has met with a serious and measured Government Response.

Yet the question remains whether spending barely 2% of GDP on defence, compared with 4% to 5% in the 1980s, can possibly provide us with the level of protection we need."

Further information

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