Terror, cyber attacks 'biggest security threats' in Britain
International terrorism and cyber attacks pose the biggest threats to British security, a new government strategy said Monday, just before deep cuts to the defence budget are unveiled.
Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition identified these as "tier one" threats in a new national security strategy along with a natural disaster like a flu pandemic and foreign military crises that could involve Britain.
The strategy was unveiled hours before Cameron announces details of a defence review Tuesday, which is set to outline cuts of around eight percent in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) budget.
It also comes ahead of Wednesday's comprehensive spending review which could see bigger cuts of up to 25 percent in most departments as Cameron's coalition, which took office in May, battles to pay off Britain's huge deficit.
In a foreword to the document, Cameron warned that Britain was entering an "age of uncertainty" where fresh threats to the country's security and economy were constantly emerging and changing.
"All of this calls for a radical transformation in the way we think about national security and organise ourselves to protect it," he wrote.
He added that the previous Labour government had left "a defence and security structure that is woefully unsuitable for the world we live in today".
The strategy arranges the risks to Britain's security into three tiers which are likely to reflect how resources are allocated when details of defence spending are unveiled Tuesday.
The top tier includes the threat from international terrorism, which Cameron says is the "most pressing threat we face today".
Cyber attacks are also considered a tier one threat, particularly given how dependent British businesses and services are on the Internet and with the 2012 Olympic Games in London likely to be a particular target.
"Cyberspace is already woven into the fabric of our society. It is integral to our economy and our security," the strategy says.
Also in the top tier are international military situations which could draw Britain into conflict, such as regional power battles and humanitarian crises.
The government said it would seek to prevent these through diplomacy but they could require a military intervention as a last resort.
In the second tier, judged slightly less important, are the risk of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack on Britain, of major instability or civil war overseas that raises the threat of terrorism, of a significant increase in the level of organised crime and the risk of severe disruption to satellite communications.
The third tier includes the threat of a large-scale conventional military attack on British soil, a NATO or European partner, disruption to energy or food supplies and a nuclear accident in this country.
The war in Afghanistan, where Britain has almost 10,000 troops fighting Taliban insurgents, was not mentioned specifically in the strategy but officials insisted it remained a defence priority.
"This is about the future," a government official said on condition of anonymity.
© 2010 AFP