Thursday, January 5, 2012

Upside to austerity?

Britain and the US, close allies who are both victims of the debt crisis, will today agree to scale down their military capability and back away from the kind of armed intervention they have enthusiastically supported in recent decades.

That will be the clear message from the first meeting between Philip Hammond, the UK's new defence secretary, and Leon Panetta, his opposite number in the Pentagon, officials say. The Washington meeting will also be the first opportunity for Hammond to confront the US over particular British concerns, notably the availability and soaring cost of the US-made joint strike fighters destined for Britain's new aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.

As the US plans to withdraw more troops from Europe in what is building up to be a turning point in transatlantic relations, Hammond will also lambast European members of Nato for not pulling their weight.

With Panetta expected to announce sweeping cuts in his defence budget, Hammond will point to similarities in the US and UK economic situations, according to officials. "Without strong economies and stable public finances it is impossible to build and sustain, in the long-term, the military capability required to project power and maintain defence," he is expected to tell the Atlantic Council thinktank.

There may be some overlap between "projecting power" and "maintaining defense." But they aren't necessarily the same thing. Maybe there's an upside to austerity.

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