As the battle for the Labour Party leadership intensifies, current leader Jeremy Corbyn has implied that he would not necessarily commit British troops to NATO in the event of a Russian attack.
Despite being questioned multiple times at a leadership debate in Birmingham if as Prime Minister he would honour the most fundamental principle of NATO membership, that of “collective defence” meaning an attack against one member is considered an attack against all, he refused to give a definite answer.
Instead he said;
I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily, by building up democratic relationships…I don’t wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it. That can be done.
Worryingly, this has been a second blow to NATO’s deterrence regarding two of its most significant members and their internal politics regarding the alliance. In July, US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump emphasised his policy of “America First” by stating that under his presidency the US may not automatically support its NATO allies if the alliance’s members do not meet their own commitments to NATO. This was in reference to the number of NATO members who do not meet their 2% GDP defence budgets and rely very heavily on the US for their defence. While neither Trump nor Corbyn are yet in a position of power their voices carry a lot of weight in both countries.
Jeremy Corbyn’s politics contrast sharply to established British defence policies many of which were established by previous Labour governments. He is a stern advocate of scrapping the nuclear deterrent and has implied that he would abolish the current military structure of the UK – Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy – replacing it with a defence force with even greater emphasis on part time reserve forces.