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Prof Bobbitt: 'Military spending is like insurance'

The US ambassador to Nato, Ivo Daalder, has said that European countries - including the UK - need to use the money saved by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next year, to re-equip their militaries - rather than cut spending on defence.

Although describing Mr Daalder as "a very distinguished figure, a brilliant academic and someone whose voice is worth respecting", US diplomat Professor Philip Bobbitt said: "I don't think his real point should be about current budgets, and the repatriation of the Afghan surplus. I think the thing we really have to focus on, is that there is so little support in the public for defence expenditures generally. I don't think the public, not just in Europe but in America too, has any clear idea of what our forces are for."

He went on to say: "Military spending is a little like insurance - you don't know when you'll need it, but you don't want to be without it."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former defence secretary and chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, broadly agreed with Prof Bobbitt.

"Most of Europe is unwilling to accept that they should be making a very significant contribution towards global security and global defence," but he added that the United Kingdom has the fourth largest defence budget in the world and should not perhaps be grouped together with its European neighbours in this respect.

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