Often, it takes an economic crisis to reveal where a country’s national priorities really lie. Notably, all of the world’s major power blocs are using this time of financial hardship to increase their military spending—except the United States.
Take Russia. The financial pandemic has forced the Kremlin to drastically cut government spending across the board. Budgets for both the Energy Ministry and the Transport Ministry this year were slashed by almost a third. In fact, the only massive, expensive project the Russian government has increased funding for is its military.
President Dmitry Medvedev vowed on March 17 to increase government military spending this year by 26 percent in order to transform Russia’s creaky, Soviet-era defense industry into a leaner, more effective fighting force. Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin cohorts clearly place a high priority on national defense.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently reported that Russian arms exports were 14 percent higher from 2004 to 2008 than the previous five years. Seventy-one percent of these exported weapons were delivered to Russia’s Asia-Pacific allies; deliveries of naval vessels and advanced combat aircraft to China and India accounted for a considerable share.
The Russians aren’t the only ones beefing up their armed forces amid economic crisis. Chinese Adm. Wu Shengli told reporters on April 15 of his nation’s ambition to start building large combat warships, next-generation aircraft and sophisticated torpedoes. International media sources speculate that China is already building us many as six aircraft carriers. Whether or not that is true, the fact remains that Beijing has upped its military spending by 14.9 percent this year. Its military is fast becoming a formidable force—especially in light of Beijing forming military alliances with Moscow, Tokyo and New Delhi.
Germany also has caught rearmament fever, and will be funneling almost €500 million (US$633 million) from the second government stimulus package into the Defense Ministry. This money will be used to buy tanks, combat drones, submachine guns, military vehicles and underwater mine detectors for the German armed forces.
Germany’s military industries have increased their arms exports by a record 70 percent over the past five years. This means that Germany is now the third-largest arms exporter on the planet—behind only the U.S. and Russia. This new multimillion-euro injection of stimulus money will increase Germany’s military capacity even more. Just as most of Russia’s arms exports are going to Moscow’s Asia-Pacific allies, so much of Germany’s arms exports are going to Berlin’s European allies. Indeed, German arms exports to European destinations grew by 123 percent from 2003 to 2008.
The U.S., it appears, is the only major world power that is not drastically increasing military spending. In fact, Washington is drastically cutting spending on some of its most vital defense programs.
On April 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Washington’s intention to restructure American defense spending to concentrate on the “wars we are in” rather than those that military planners may anticipate in the future. In other words, the Pentagon is now focusing on counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of other threats to America.
As part of this restructuring, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet program will be terminated, the Airborne Laser and Transformational Satellite programs will end, and the U.S. Navy will continue to shrink from the 313-ship fleet size that was set just a few years ago.
“It is important to remember,” said Gates, “that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk—or, in effect, to run up the score in a capability where the United States is already dominant—is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in and improve capabilities in areas where we are under-invested and potentially vulnerable.”
Of course, perceived “remote” and “diminishing” threats do not always stay remote and diminishing. As America focuses in on terrorism and ignores the threats posed by traditional nation-states, it risks allowing nations like Russia and Germany to narrow the gap between their militaries and the preeminent U.S. military.
As journalist Walter Lippmann observed in 1943, the push for disarmament after World War i only proved “tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament.”
The truth behind the restructuring of America’s military spending is that Washington can no longer afford to maintain its military superiority. Other nations know this and are seizing the opportunity. The day is fast coming when the Pentagon will have many more threats to worry about than just Afghanistan.
For more information on America’s military decline, order a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy by Herbert W. Armstrong. •