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UK defense spending to hit 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030, vows Boris Johnson

MADRID — The U.K. will up its defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by the end of the current decade, Boris Johnson announced at the NATO summit.

The British prime minister — who has been under intense domestic pressure to commit to further defense spending in recent days — said the hike was needed “to invest for the long-term in vital capabilities like future combat air whilst simultaneously adapting to a more dangerous and more competitive world.”

“The logical conclusion of the investments on which we propose to embark, these decisions, is that we’ll reach 2.5 percent of GDP on defense by the end of the decade,” Johnson told a press conference on the closing day of the summit.

The promise comes after days of speculation about a potential budget boost, triggered by an intense public lobbying campaign led by Johnson’s own Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

“The defense secretary has always been clear that as the threat changes, so should defence spending,” a U.K. defense official said in response to the announcement.

“In 2020 the prime minister reversed decades of under investment in defense and he rightly responded to Russia’s danger by continuing to invest in defense, for which the defense secretary is very grateful,” the official added.

Yet some critics in Johnson’s own Conservative party were less-than-impressed with the promise. Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons defense committee, dismissed the pledge as “too little too late,” and took aim at Britain’s plan to reduce the size of its army by 10,000 troops.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Thursday morning defended that cut in troop numbers, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “warfare now is different to warfare as it was 100 years ago, or 200 years ago.”

The U.K., which currently spends around 2 percent of GDP on defense, won’t be alone in its effort to up spending, as several other NATO allies have offered to increase investment to 2.5 percent, with a few pledging to reach 3 percent during Wednesday’s sessions, according to a Spanish senior official.

Johnson’s pledge follows a British announcement of an extra £1 billion to bolster Ukraine’s resistance against Russia, which U.K. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said had been achieved by reallocating funds earmarked for climate change and overseas development projects.

This story has been updated with further reporting.

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