At 2.7% of GDP, the UK is the highest EU defence spender.
However, the forces are small in comparison to many in Europe, equipment is generally good, with some shortfalls, and training is first class.
The problem the UK has is that large amounts of money are spent on deployment, usually the costs are covered by the contingency fund separate from the defence budget.
All well and good if a major deployment is happening once a year or 18 months, but now the forces are multi-deployed with problems of overstretch.
Chancellor Gordon Brown won't raid the contingency fund for every deployment.
Many in the UK are getting a bit fed up with the UK doing the lion's share of European military deployments.
Who was first into the former Yugoslavia, and apart from the US had the most assets out there?
Who led the Macedonian mission last year?
Apart from the US, who is boxing Iraq in?
Who lead the Stabilisation force in Kabul, (and no one seems to want to relieve them of that role, despite promises from Turkey)?
If the bombing had failed in 1999, who was the only NATO nation willing to go all the way with ground troops in Kosovo? Fortunately not needed in the end.
France, Germany, Denmark and Norway have provided help in Afghanistan, but who's got the biggest non-US combat units in theatre?
Then there's Sierra Leone, (preventing another African slaughter), a small but expensive presence in the Falklands, still a (reduced) presence in Northern Ireland.
I understand European concerns about some aspects of Bush's policies, but until some European NATO nations get their military act together their arguments lack credibility.
The Netherlands have done a good job restructuring their forces to be useful in the post Cold War world, they've reduced spending like everyone else, but not just by 'Salami-slicing' cutbacks.
(Provided airlift capability, a helicopter transport and attack capability for the army, more sealift capability).
If they can do, so can everyone else.
As for the UK, I think a £1-1.5 Billion on the budget for the next few years is appropriate, to safeguard projects as spending on the big ticket items, like the new 50,000 ton carriers ramps up.