“To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.
“This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our Armed Forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life.”
The new funding will be partly spent on a new agency dedicated to artificial intelligence as well as the creation of a national cyber force and new space command. That latter should be capable of launching its first rocket by 2022.
Alan Mendoza from the Henry Jackson Society, a hawkish think tank, said the boost was recognition the government considered its foes to be growing more dangerous.
“With China and Russia on the march, this investment will deliver on keeping the UK secure,” Mendoza said.
He warned that the Ministry of Defence must spend its extra funding wisely to warrant the investment, amid concerns it has overspent on procuring new equipment in the past.
Johnson will formally announce the extra spending in a statement to the Commons on Thursday, London time, although he will have to deliver it virtually as he is self-isolating in his Downing Street flat after coming into contact with a Tory MP who tested positive for COVID-19.
The Conservatives have already promised to spend 2 per cent of the country’s GDP, as well as increase the defence budget by 0.5 per cent above inflation, taking the forecasted defence budget to £24.1 billion, more than $10 billion per year for the next four years.
Number 10 said this would make the UK the highest spender on defence in Europe and the second-largest in NATO behind the United States. Outgoing US President Donald Trump had repeatedly complained the US disproportionately funded NATO and has pressured European allies, including Britain to boost their commitments.
Downing Street estimated that the new defence spending would add 10,000 jobs.
But the government has been under pressure from hawks within it to commit to an increased spend as part of its integrated review into the Defence Force.
That review is designed to look at whether Britain’s defence, foreign policy and security strategies are aligned as it responds to new forms of warfare and hostility from countries like Russia, China and Iran.
“Cutting our overseas aid commitment would herald an embarrassing start to our G7 presidency and efforts to promote a global Britain agenda,” he said.
“A new era of global leadership dawns following [US President-elect] Joe Biden’s win and an opportunity to reboot Western resolve and confront growing instability – yet here we are, retreating from the global stage,” he said.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.