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Vladimir Putin is continuing with Russia’s destructive war in Ukraine, despite the country being battered by crippling economic sanctions from throughout Europe. Earlier this month, the EU hit Russia with a fourth package of sanctions aimed at blowing huge holes in the country’s trade aspirations and shackling the business interests of certain individuals. In 2020, EU member states spent €198billion (£164.5billion) on defence – the most since records began in 2006 – according to the most recent report from the European Defence Agency (EDA).
But despite this rise on total defence expenditure, collaborative defence spending has continued to plummet.
In 2020, member states spent a total of €4.1billion (£3.4billion) on the procurement of new equipment in cooperation with others – a fall of 13 percent compared to the €4.7billion (£3.9billion) spent in 2019.
The UK expenditure on defence as a percentage of national GDP in 2020 was 2.3 percent – easily topping the NATO threshold of two percent.
But Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy expert and former aide to Margaret Thatcher, has warned Putin could soon turn his attentions to large areas of Europe – and nations need to be prepared to fight back.
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He told Express.co.uk: “If Russia gets away with what it is doing in Ukraine, it will next make a move against the Baltic states and potentially Poland too. The stakes are incredibly high.
“Europe has a big decision to make – to go down the road of appeasement or whether European Governments are going to spend more on defence.
“The Russians could be looking to conquer big chunks of Europe and we have to stop them.
“The UK must lead on this and other European Governments have to follow.
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“We can’t allow the Russians to impose their will on Europe.
“The safest option for Britain and our European allies is to spend more on defence, project strength and resolve and make the Russians back off.
“If we don’t, what you see in Europe will happen in other parts of Europe.”
Mr Gardiner has urged the UK Government to double defence spending if the nation wants to continue leading from the front to “stand up” to future aggression from the likes of Russia and China.
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The UK’s expenditure on defence as a percentage of national GDP easily places it above the two percent guideline set by NATO for its members and in 2020, defence increased once again, up by 0.2 percent from 2019.
NATO also sets a guideline that its members should spend at least 20 percent of their defence budget on equipment and in 2020, the UK spent 22.2 percent of its defence expenditure on equipment.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not announce an increase in UK defence spending during his Spring Statement earlier this week – despite pressure from ministers to do so.
He told MPs a £24billion cash boost he announced last year for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) amounted to “the largest uplift to defence spending since the end of the Cold War”.
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But speaking prior to this, Mr Gardiner warned: “Russia and China will increasingly coordinate all of their activities, and I expect to see strategic and military collaboration between them on multiple fronts in the coming years.
“We need to take the same approach as the immediate period leading up to World War 2 where Britain re-armed and we have to do that today.
“Defence spending should double from two percent to four percent in the coming years if Britain is serious about being a world power again that can stand up to the likes of Russia and China.
“Britain has demonstrated tremendous political leadership on so many fronts with regards to Ukraine but the reality is, we need to be able to fight and win a ground war against the Russians in Europe.”
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