GOVERNMENT MINISTERS and opposition politicians have been urged not to heed calls by former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to increase UK military spending by more than 50 per cent. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s leading pacifist network, said that raising military spending would not help Ukrainians, deter Vladimir Putin or make people in the UK any safer. They urged Keir Starmer not to support the call.

Since 2020, Boris Johnson has increased UK military spending by the highest levels since the Cold War.  According to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies released on 15 February 2022, the UK has overtaken India to become the third-largest defence spender in the world. Amongst NATO countries the United Kingdom ranks second, both in cash terms and as a proportion of GDP.

Writing in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt argued that the UK government should increase defence spending to the same proportion of GDP as the US.. The PPU says this would mean an increase of more than 50 per cent in the British military budget.

Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director-general of the military thinktank RUSI, told the Daily Telegraph that such an increase would require “an increase in taxes beyond what the Chancellor has already promised”.

The PPU, which has consistently condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, works with other peace groups around the world, including in Ukraine and Russia.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said: It is very naïve to imagine you can solve deep-seated problems with guns and bombs. Jeremy Hunt says that peace comes through strength. But strength does not come through an endless supply of weapons. There is far more strength in committing to international dialogue, disarmament negotiations and grassroots peace initiatives.

Hunt claims that increased military spending would promote ‘freedom’. But while he rightly condemns Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine, he is happy for UK troops to provide military training to Saudi forces committing similar atrocities in Yemen. 

People everywhere have been inspired by Ukrainians courageously standing in front of tanks, and by brave Russian peace activists resisting Putin’s vile regime. Peace will come about not through the simplistic calls of headline-grabbing politicians but by the hard work and determination of ordinary people around the world.”

The Peace Pledge Union condemned Russia’s invasion as soon as it began, and has remained in regular contact with the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement and with Russian anti-war activists.

* More information on UK defence spending here.

* Source: Peace Pledge Union