The British government unexpectedly announced on Wednesday that it would commit to NATO's defense spending pledge of two percent of GDP for the next five years, a decision much welcomed in Estonia, which relies on allies' help to protect it against possible aggression from Russia.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the British Parliament during his budget statement on Wednesday that the government was "not prepared to see the threats we face to both our country and our values go unchallenged," according to Reuters.
"So today I commit additional resources to the defence and security of the realm... committing today to meet the NATO pledge to spend 2 percent of our national income on defense, not just this year, but every year of this decade," Osborne said.
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves both shared the news in their Twitter feed.
Currently just six NATO member states spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense - the United States, Britain, Greece, Turkey, Poland and Estonia – but the UK was previously expected to fall behind with its expenditure. It has reduced defense spending by about 8 percent in real terms since 2010 to help cut a record budget deficit, shrinking the size of the armed forces by around one sixth and scrapping the old Invincible-class aircraft carriers and Harrier jets along the way. However, Britain still spends more on defense than any other European NATO member.
The US immediately welcomed the pledge and urged all NATO members to do the same.
Britain and Estonia have in recent years become formidable allies. Estonian troops served under British command in Afghanistan and the Royal Air Force has repeatedly provided jets for the Baltic Air Policing mission in the absence of local air defense capability. Four RAF Typhoons are currently deployed at Ämari Air Base.
Editor: S. Tambur