British Defence Policy: Striking the Right Balance by John Baylis

By John Baylis

This research of British defence coverage argues "one-off" defence evaluation isn't really adequate yet a customary means of defece experiences each 5 years supply a long term strategic path which, the writer continues, is missing at present.

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The continuing decline of British military power was highlighted by the 1974-5 defence review which initiated a contraction in Britain's contribution even to European defence. The next two or three years also saw frequent incremental cuts in British defence spending which brought loud criticisms from American military circles. 15 Even with the Callaghan government's reversal of the downward spiral in 1977 and its commitment to an annual 3 per cent real increase in defence spending (along with the other NATO allies), there is no doubt that by the end of the late 1970s Britain's contribution to the special defence relationship was considerably less than it had been in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Churchill sent a minute to Eden on 25 November 1944 in which he argued that there was little to be gained from a Western European Group until France had been able to build up her army once again - which would probably take from five to ten years. The Prime Minister was rather dismissive of many of the small states: The Belgians are extremely weak, and their behaviour before the war was shocking. The Dutch were entirely selfish and fought only when attacked, and then for a few hours. Denmark is helpless and defenceless, and Norway practically so.

The attempt to balance European cooperation with close Anglo-American relations led Mrs Thatcher, on a number of occasions, to side with her European allies in disputes with the United States. The most notable of these centred on the question of sanctions against the Soviet Union after martial law was declared in Poland, in 1981. Mrs Thatcher supported her European allies in refusing to introduce sanctions and as a result British as well as other European firms for a time were black-listed by the United States.

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