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FOREIGN RELATIONS AND ARMED FORCES
OF THE UK
The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8, NATO, OECD, WTO, Commonwealth of Nations, Council of Europe, and a member state of the European Union. The UK's most notable alliance is its "Special Relationship" with the United States. Apart from the US and Europe, Britain's close allies include Commonwealth nations and others such as Japan. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations and its armed forces, which maintain approximately eighty military installations and other deployments around the globe. The Army, Navy and Air Force are collectively known as the British Armed Forces and officially as HM Armed Forces. The three forces are managed by the Ministry of Defence and controlled by the Defence Council, chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence. The United Kingdom fields one of the most technologically advanced and best trained armed forces in the world. According to various sources, including the Ministry of Defence, the UK has the fourth highest military expenditure in the world, despite only having the 27th largest military in terms of manpower. Total defence spending currently accounts for 2.5% of total national GDP. The Royal Navy is a blue-water navy, currently one of the few, along with the French Navy and the United States Navy The Ministry of Defence signed contracts worth £3.2bn to build two new supercarrier sized aircraft carriers on 3 July 2008. The United Kingdom is one of the five recognised countries possessing nuclear weapons, utilising the Vanguard class submarine-based Trident II ballistic missile system. The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting the United Kingdom's global security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO, including the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, as well as the Five Power Defence Arrangements, RIMPAC, and other worldwide coalition operations. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Cyprus, and Qatar. In 2005, the British Army had a reported strength of 102,440, the Air Force had 49,210 personnel and the Navy 36,320. The United Kingdom Special Forces provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert tactics are required. There are reserve forces supporting the regular military. These include the Territorial Army, the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. This puts total active and reserve duty military personnel at approximately 429,500, deployed in over eighty countries. Despite the United Kingdom's military capabilities, recent pragmatic defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" would be undertaken as part of a coalition Setting aside the intervention in Sierra Leone, operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq may all be taken as precedent. Indeed the last war in which the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, in which they were victorious.
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