Warning that the UK cannot make cuts to our forces

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ALLOWING UK defence spending to fall below a Nato target would undermine Britain’s credibility and give confidence to the Russian president, according to a Tory chairman.

The message comes from Rory Stewart, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee and delivered to Chancellor George Osborne.

The Nato target is two per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

It comes after cuts were made to the navy in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, and another review is out later this year.

The Royal Air Force has also recently been forced to escort Russian aircraft which had strayed close to the south coast of the UK.

Mr Stewart said: ‘Our view as the defence committee is that that would be a big mistake because that commitment came out of a Nato summit that was really directed against what is happening in Ukraine.

‘It really happened in the context of demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that the whole of Nato – that’s not just Britain and the United States but all the other Nato members – were committed to spending two per cent of GDP on defence.

‘Putin is an opportunist, he is looking for signs of weakness, he is testing the alliance.

‘So it is very important symbolically that we hold to that two percent commitment.’