This week a delegation of Ulster Unionists – Steve Aiken MLA, Philip Smith MLA and I – visited Nato headquarters in Brussels for briefings and discussions.
Nato, with its core principle of collective defence, plays a key stabilising role in an uncertain world. Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, the UUP fully recognises the need for a strong and effective Nato military alliance and understands the value of the UK working with our allies to counteract global threats.
The briefings gave us an overview of the evolving security environment and Nato’s response to various challenges.
Russia’s ongoing illegal annexation of Crimea continues to destabilise the region, we therefore welcomed the opportunity to learn more about Nato’s commitment to bolster defence in the east.
This commitment includes the plan to deploy four multi-national battalions to the three Baltic States and Poland from early next year – the UK will be leading the Nato presence in Estonia.
Instability in the Middle East and North Africa, the migrant crisis and the threat posed by Daesh present significant additional challenges that also require long-term resources.
The ability of Nato to undertake operations is dependent on a sustained investment in defence by its members. I welcome that since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated the UK’s commitment to meet the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
It is vital that all Nato members meet this obligation if the burden of the alliance’s activities is to be fairly shared. The UUP also recognises that this investment must be strategic and appropriate for addressing current and future challenges.
We were assured it is ‘business as usual’ for Nato after the UK vote to leave the EU.
I found our discussions useful and I and my UUP colleagues will continue to make the case for investment in UK defence and a strong, effective Nato.
Tom Elliott, MP Fermanagh Sth Tyrone