Army is safe from further cutbacks

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Indy Politics

Defence Correspondent

There will be no more Army cuts, even if most of the 17,000 troops still in Northern Ireland are withdrawn in the wake of the ceasefire, the Government said yesterday in this year's Defence White Paper. Instead, any spare troops will be available for UN peacekeeping.

Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, also announced the establishment of a military headquarters to plan worldwide operations and "anticipate the need for a response to emerging crises".

He said the new headquarters, at Northwood, Middlesex, would be "proactive", and reflected Britain's continual involvement in military operations which were "neither peace nor war, but something between". These are the primary justification for this year's defence estimates of £21.7bn.

According to the White Paper, there is now "no direct strategic military threat of attack against the United kingdom", a very low risk of an attack on a Nato ally, and a very low risk of an attack on British dependent territories - such as the Falklands. Therefore, the forces are to be used to "play an active role in international affairs".

The White Paper says "if we are able to reduce the armed forces' commitment in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it will not be matched by cuts in fighting units. Instead, for our servicemen and women, it will mean more time for their families, . . . for training, and . . . to apply their professional skills and expertise on the global stage".

As pressure grows on Britain to conduct further nuclear disarmament, the White Paper stresses recent reductions in the British nuclear arsenal: a 21 per cent reduction in warhead numbers and a 59 percent cut in explosive power since the 1970s. For the first time the number of nuclear warheads to be deployed on the Trident system, which has now entered service, is specified as "less than 300". Previously, the Government gave the maximum figure of 384.

t Statement on the Defence Estimates 1995: Stable Forces in a Strong Britain; HMSO; £12.80.