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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Play a leading role in NATO

Last updated: 10:50am 13 September 2019

We will play a leading role in NATO…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.41

Our verdict

NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – a military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The United Kingdom was one of the founding members in 1949 and is one of the main contributors. This policy is a promise to play a leading role in NATO, so we’re looking for continued high levels of spending as well as operational leadership activities.

Throughout 2017, the UK maintained the NATO defence spending target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP).  According to NATO, 2.14% of the UK’s GDP was allocated to defence in 2017. Further, government figures show that in 2018 the UK was one of only five NATO member states to meet the 2% target.

A House of Commons Defence Committee report in June 2018 found that:

“in 2018 the UK will provide 10% of the NATO common funded budgets and programmes (the fourth highest after the US, Germany and France)”

The report also outlined various ways in which the UK has demonstrated operational leadership under this government:

  • hosts two NATO headquarters and NATO exercises
  • commands and contributes to battlegroups
  • takes a leadership role in cyber-warfare
  • is one of three nuclear capable NATO members

It is also notable that a British Army officer serves as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

With evidence of leadership in financial and operational terms, the government is on the way to honouring this manifesto pledge. However, the Defence Committee report sounds a warning:

“…maintaining current levels of support is not enough. The UK must demonstrate an enhanced commitment to the Alliance if we wish to retain a leadership role within NATO”

With that in mind, we’re giving this policy a status of ‘in progress’. We’ll be watching to see if “enhanced commitment” arises and whether the UK maintains its leadership role. Follow this policy for updates.

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