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Defence Committee publishes report on US, UK and NATO

7 March 2023

The Defence Committee publishes a report on the US, UK and NATO relationships, taking in the events since the publication of the Integrated Review.

Following the concerns raised as a result of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the unprovoked Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine has underscored the importance of close collaboration on defence with the UK’s key allies. Russian actions have also given NATO a unity of purpose.

The report emphasises the importance of the UK’s relationship with the US, which “must not be taken for granted” and “requires regular engagement at multiple levels” within the defence and political spheres. In particular, the Committee calls on the UK Government to encourage the US to engage in the planning stage for any future operations that may impact on the UK.

The report concludes with concerns about the ability of Western governments and defence industry to procure and produce at pace the missiles and shells to help Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is vital, but the Committee concludes that, whilst Russian stockpiles are also being run down, other adversaries are able to maintain and even increase their own. The Committee warns that the “inability to replenish UK stockpiles therefore puts at risk not just our ability to resupply Ukraine but also to counter any threat to our own security”.

The report also welcomes the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO and calls on the Government to engage with interlocuters in Hungary and Türkiye to expedite ratification. The Committee also praises the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Forces (JEF) as a “force multiplier for both its constituent countries and NATO”. The report welcomes the Government’s push for increasing NATO efforts in the High North (of the North Atlantic and the Arctic) but calls on the Government to ensure that the UK has the personnel and capabilities required to play a leading role in the region.

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:

“When it comes to defence, there is strength in numbers. The UK military is highly capable and world-leading but collaboration with allies is vital and only strengthens us further.

“The UK and the US’ Special Relationship is unparalleled in its depth and longevity and is mutually beneficial for both countries. In today’s report we call for close and continuing engagement with the US on defence and warn that the UK neglects this relationship at its peril.

“Beyond bilateral co-operation with the US, maintaining the UK’s place as a leading member of NATO is integral to the security of the nation and wider region. The decision to pull UK troops from Estonia risks sending the wrong message entirely. We should be turning towards our responsibilities not away from them.

“The Government must continue to advocate for the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. A bigger NATO means a safer Europe, and the Government should work with intermediaries in Hungary and Turkiye to break the diplomatic deadlock.

“Throughout our inquiry we heard of the need for a shift towards the High North. The UK should work to ensure that NATO forces have the necessary personnel and capabilities to lead in the High North, with a focus on reinforcing the borders of Joint Expeditionary Force counterparts.

“However, to be a credible force the UK needs to ensure that it has the capabilities it needs — which means making sure that we have sufficient personnel, weapons, ammunition and equipment. We are concerned that it is taking so long to replenish UK stockpiles: both government and industry need to act. The Integrated Review Refresh and the budget need to show that the Government understands the importance of UK defence in an increasingly dangerous world.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be a wake-up call for the West. Safety, security and democracy are hard won and easily lost. A powerful, resilient Armed Forces, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies overseas, is the best deterrent against aggression.”

Further information

Image credit: Crown Copyright 2014/OGL (Open Government License)