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Sunak accused of inflaming global tensions with 'war footing' military spending plan

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Sunak accused of inflaming global tensions with 'war footing' military spending plan

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of ramping up global tensions with his pledge to increase UK military spending by £75bn over six years.

Announced during a visit to Poland, the planned increase - the largest in decades - would take military spending to 2.5% of the UK's GDP.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK's leading pacifist organisation, has slammed the plans as an obscene waste of public funds in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

PPU members have pointed out that the UK's skyrocketing military spending sends a clear hostile message to Russia, China, Iran and other countries identified by Sunak, and therefore makes military escalation more likely.

Sunak's announcement is the latest in a series of dramatic military spending pledges by the current government. Last year, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced an £11bn rise over five years. Before that, Boris Johnson announced an extra £24bn over four years, recognised at the time as the largest increase since the Korean War.

Sunak's new pledge dwarfs these figures and would bring military spending to £87bn per year by 2030.

The UK already has the sixth highest military budget in the world, after only the USA, China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia.

Despite this, Sunak has faced relentless pressure from MPs in his own party to increase military spending. Politicians and military figures have repeatedly talked up the possiblity of war with Russia, with the head of the British army recently raising the prospect of conscription.

With Labour also supporting the rise to 2.5% of GDP, military spending looks set to become an election issue, with the two main parties vying to outdo one another.

The PPU said that this reveals ‘distorted priorities’ and encourages the return of cold war-style politics. They pointed out that, in recent months alone, the UK armed forces have inflamed global instability by bombing Yemen and supporting the Israeli government during the war in Gaza.

The PPU argues that 'defence' should mean laying strong foundations for global security, including international co-operation, deescalation of military conflict, nuclear disarmament and funding to tackle the climate crisis.

PPU Council member Ed Bridges said: "It is unconscionable that the UK Government thinks it can find an extra £75bn to find more ways of killing and maiming people at a time when our hospitals, schools and social care system are all desperately underfunded. It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic that our government's priorities are so utterly skewed."

Sunak also announced plans to increase military support for Ukraine to £3bn this year and to continue to provide the same level indefinitely "for every year it is needed".

The PPU have said that sending more weapons to Ukraine will only draw out the war and make peace more difficult to achieve. They have challenged attempts by the UK government to misuse the conflict in Ukraine to promote its own military spending agenda.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine the PPU has consistently condemned the Russian invasion and supported both Russian and Ukrainian peace activists. They have called for a ceasefire and urgent peace talks to end the bloodshed.

The PPU is the British section of War Resisters' International, which unites pacifists in six continents. Other member organisations include the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement and the Russian Movement for Conscientious Objectors.