British people tend to oppose providing Ukraine with military equipment – but those following news about the crisis tend to support it
David Cameron will meet representatives of NATO’s 28 member states in Newport, Wales today to call for increased defence spending and to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The UK has the second largest defence budget in the alliance, meeting the 2% of GDP spending target that is only fulfilled by four members including the US. Speaking yesterday, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that "US taxpayers won't go on picking up the cheque if we choose to prioritise social welfare spending when the threats are on our doorstep".
A 4,000-strong rapid reaction force with a substantial British contingent to be deployed in Eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis is expected to be announced at the summit, but a new YouGov survey finds a luke-warm response to sending military equipment into Ukraine itself.
Among the general public 39% oppose providing large-scale military equipment to the government of Ukraine, while 30% are in support. Among those who are following the conflict closely, however, 49% are in support and 37% oppose.
The 2% defence spending target is viewed as an iconic commitment, especially by the US, but the failure of most European members to meet it has led some to question whether Europe is serious about its security. While 30% of British people feel that Britain should only continue to satisfy the requirement if other NATO members do the same, 42% are committed to the goal unilaterally.
Britain has to date declined to comment on whether it would continue to spend 2% of its GDP on defence beyond 2015, with the former Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claiming that the calculation “isn’t the best and most effective way to measure the defence effort”. It is unlikely that other NATO members will agree to increase their spending on security, due to poor economic performance and austerity.