World

Coronavirus: Countries Urged Not To Cut Defence Spending

Josep Borrell said the COVID-19 pandemic poses a new threat and risks deteriorating the security environment.

The European Union High Representative has urged countries not to cut defence spending amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There could be increased challenges to EU security because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Josep Borrell warned.

His comments follow a meeting of EU defence ministers where security and defence implications of the pandemic were discussed.

"The pandemic will be a new threat and will deteriorate our security environment," Mr Borrell said.

"The coronavirus will increase the need for a stronger European Union security and defence."

Coronavirus has taken its toll on countries around the world also when it comes to the economy.

In the United Kingdom, the Chancellor has said the country faces a significant recession.

Meanwhile, the focus of the British Armed Forces has been responding to the health emergency.

However, experts say the wider security situation has not changed.

"We have China that is increasingly assertive in its policies in its regions in the wider world, we have a president in Russia that is obviously hostile towards the West and presenting difficulties of various sorts, arms control is getting weaker," Professor Trevor Taylor, Research Fellow in Defence Management at RUSI, said.

"We have an American ally with a president that's making more demands on NATO and is sort of problematic," he added.

"Europeans are questioning whether they can really rely on the United States in the future."

HMS Kent during cold weather training with the United States earlier this month (Picture: MOD).

As a result of the pandemic, a number of military operations and training exercises around the world have either been cancelled, postponed or scaled back.

Some training has started to resume, however, including in the British Army, while some Royal Air Force training has continued during lockdown.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, left Portsmouth last month to begin sea trials.

"While the safety of our personnel deployed in our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations remains a priority, we need to ensure that the missions and operations continue to deliver on their tasks to the extent possible and explore ways to support our partners in tackling the pandemic," Mr Borrell said.

The focus is now being turned to economic recovery, and with it, questions of whether defence could be at the heart of the effort in the UK.

"Military people are not being made redundant," Prof Taylor said.

"Their salaries are a constant in the national finances and we have also the equipment spends are being kept up, contracts have not been cancelled.

"In fact, you could say that defence work with the private sector has been a kind of island of stability in this very uncertain world."

However, it seems unlikely any sector will avoid being affected by the virus in some way.

Cover image: MOD.