Jeremy Hunt has pledged to increase defense spending and reverse “unthinkable” planned cuts in the size of the military in the face of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
The Tory leadership hopeful has said he would spend 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy, on defense by 2028 if elected to succeed Boris Johnson .
Without it, the UK risks sliding lower in NATO’s defense spending rankings, he warned.
The ex-foreign secretary would also end cuts in the 2021 spending review in his first budget because ‘now is not the time to cut the military by nearly 10,000 men’, according to a leadership campaign press release.
Mr Hunt said: ‘Whatever other pressures we face, dropping NATO’s defense spending rankings simply cannot be an option for Global Britain.
“We are facing a long-term war of attrition in Europe, so we need to be aware of the implications for our defense budget.
“The planned budget cuts in our armed forces are now unthinkable; we must put our money where our mouth is and prove that we understand that the first duty of government is to keep people safe”.
The pledge would amount to a cumulative additional £86bn over the next five years to meet the 3% target, according to campaign estimates.
It is unclear how this would be funded. Mr Hunt’s campaign has been contacted for comment.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mr Johnson recently pledged to increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade, following a Cabinet spending row over the issue .
But that’s not enough to prevent Britain from losing its leadership position in NATO and falling behind countries in the spending rankings, including Poland and Lithuania, which increased their military budgets after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Mr. Hunt.
The 55-year-old also promised to give Ukraine more military support if needed.
Mr Hunt, whose campaign slogan is ‘Win Back Trust’, has also pledged to cut corporation tax to 15% and scrap corporate rates for five years in the poorest communities.
But he would keep the National Insurance hike going and any income tax cuts could only happen if they were sustainable, with a growing economy.