Top US general Raymond Odierno 'very concerned' about Britain's defence cuts

Nato members are supposed to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence, but George Osborne has reportedly said the UK may have to spend less than this

The US army’s most senior general has said he is “very concerned” about the effect of cuts to the UK military’s budget.

General Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the US army, told The Daily Telegraph that the West was facing “the most uncertain global environment I have seen in 40 years of service”.

After cuts imposed as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the British Army was reduced to 82,000 men, the RAF has seven combat squadrons and is due to lose another one, and the Royal Navy has just 18 operational warships.

General Odierno said: “We have a bilateral agreement between our two countries to work together. It is about having a partner that has very close values and the same goals as we do.

“What has changed, though, is the level of capability. In the past we would have a British Army division working alongside an American army division.”

He also expressed concern about cuts by the United States’ other allies, saying that Nato “had to be prepared for Ukraine”, where many expect the recent ceasefire is likely to unravel.

“The US is willing to participate, and in some cases lead, but we need our multi-national partners to help,” he said.

“As we look to the threats around the world, we need to have multinational solutions.

“They are of concern to everyone, and we need everybody to help, assist and invest.”

Nato members are supposed to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence, but Chancellor George Osborne has reportedly said privately that the UK may have to spend less than this.

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he and fellow Tory MPs would find it “hard to swallow” if the Prime Minister allowed defence spending to fall below the threshold while maintaining a pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid.

He told BBC1's Sunday Politics: “I think this would be a political problem inside the Conservative Party because I think that people feel that the Government's first duty is the protection of the United Kingdom and its citizens.

“We have a commitment to Nato as part of our international treaty obligations to spend that two per cent.”

Additional reporting by PA

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