|The UK government was warned that thousands of malicious emails were hitting its networks each month [EPA]|
Cyber attacks, terrorism, inter-state conflict and natural disasters are the top threats to British security, officials have said, a day before a major military review is due to recommend deep spending cuts.
In the new National Security Strategy, unveiled on Monday, the government also highlighted threats from al-Qaeda and Northern Ireland-linked groups, as it sought to convince critics that a sweeping armed forces review due on Tuesday is policy driven, and not a money-saving exercise.
“Our strategy sets clear priorities – counter-terrorism, cyber [attacks], international military crisis, and disasters such as floods,” the government said in its report.
But a parliamentary watchdog joined critics who say Tuesday’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, the first since 1998, has been rushed and is aimed more at reducing the record budget deficit than meeting future threats.
The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee said in its report that, given the size of expected spending cuts, it doubted “whether the government has the capacity to deliver a [review] which is any way strategic”.
Nazanine Moshiri, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in London, said the report is bad news for the armed forces as it’s believed they will take the brunt [of the cuts].
“Cyber terrorism intelligence [spending] is not going to be cut and there might even be more investment in that part of defence,” she said.
“[Cuts have] gone from what was to be 25 per cent to what we believe will be 7-8 per cent of the defence budget.
“Afghanistan is not going to be affected. Any troop reductions will happen after 2015 – which is when Britain is due to start withdrawing its troops.
“There has been a lot of criticism about this review because the last one took a year and this one has only taken five months [to finalise a report] that could really impact on the whole future of the country’s defence.”
Last week, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she was “worried” that defence cuts might limit Nato’s effectiveness in Afghanistan, and Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, voiced concern that Washington would have to make up any shortfall in capacity.
The Conservative Party, which heads the ruling coalition, is traditionally seen as pro-military, and arguments over defence cuts have exposed rifts within its ranks.