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U.S. Military Budget Heading Towards Cold War Levels
Published on Wednesday, June 18, 2003 by Inter Press Service
U.S. Military Budget Heading Towards Cold War Levels
by Thalif Deen
 

STOCKHOLM - The war on terrorism has triggered a dramatic increase in U.S. military spending, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released Tuesday.


Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN under secretary-general for disarmament affairs, says the rising global military expenditure is not just diverting precious financial, material and human resources from productive to non-productive pursuits, but also jeopardizing the environment and the prospects for social and economic development.

The world spent $784 billion on arms last year, a sharp acceleration from $741 billion the previous year, the SIPRI report says. The U.S. accounted for almost three-quarters of that increase.

SIPRI attributes this increase primarily to the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

But U.S. military spending had been rising earlier too. The figures show that U.S. military spending climbed from about $296 billion in 1997 to $335.7 billion last year.

”Our figures show clearly that the bulk of the rapid increase in spending in 2002 is accounted for by the United States alone,” SIPRI Director Alyson J.K. Bailes told IPS.

The U.S. Department of Defense has estimated U.S. military spending for 2004 at about $390 billion, rising to $400 billion in 2005. The recent war on Iraq is expected to cost the United States more than $150 billion, compared to the 1991 Gulf War, which cost about $61 billion.

Japan, the world's second largest military spender, is far behind the United States with an annual defence budget of $49 billion, followed by Britain with $36 billion. The top five spenders--the United States, Japan, Britain, France and China--account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditures.

According to the SIPRI Yearbook, the United States now accounts for 43 percent of world military expenditure.

China, Russia and Brazil have all increased defense budgets significantly. The countries with the sharpest reductions in military spending in 2002 were Argentina, Guatemala and Venezuela in Latin America and Belarus and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Europe.

The European Union shows no sign of following the U.S. in raising defense budgets, Bailes said. And while the Russian budget has risen, its possibilities are limited, she added.

”A review of global expenditure trends shows that the rest of the world is not prepared, or cannot afford, to follow the U.S. example,” SIPRI says in the yearbook. Among the poorer nations the signs are mixed, said Bailes. ”Some nations are able to cut spending voluntarily because of the ending of local conflicts, or they are being forced to do so by economic problems,” she said. ”As the security sector reform becomes a serious focus both of international aid policy and of local security cooperation, we may also see improvements in what could be called the quality (rationality, transparency, and proper targeting) of defense spending, which can often be combined with quantitative cuts.”

Some former defense funds are not being cut so much as diverted to internal and non-traditional security aims, such as counter-terrorism, she added.

But there is pressure also to increase defense budgets because of factors such as keeping up with the latest technological advances, and the interest of developing states in peacekeeping and other interventions, Bailes said. The impact of increased military aid that the United States, in particular, is offering is also a factor, she said. The SIPRI Yearbook notes marked regional disparities in military expenditure. In 2001 the Middle East spent 6.3 percent of GDP on the military compared to a global average of 2.3 percent. Latin America spent only 1.3 percent.

Africa (2.1 percent), Asia (1.6 percent) and Western Europe (1.9 percent) spent less than the world average, while North America with 3.0 percent, and Central and Eastern Europe with 2.7 percent spent somewhat more.

The Middle East is the largest single market for U.S. weapons systems. The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait prompted sharp increases in arms purchases by the six Gulf nations--Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Asked if arms purchases would decline following the ouster of the Saddam regime by U.S. military forces, Bailes said ”whatever uncertainties may still remain over aspects of Iraq's future and its future regime, it seems clear that for a long while at least we shall not see another belligerent Iraq with the power and the wish to threaten its neighbors.”

An international stabilizing force on Iraq's soil for some time could allow other states to reduce their level of military preparedness, Bailes said. But the results could be different if outside powers build new military ”clients” to compete with others, she added.

Jayantha Dhanapala, former UN under secretary-general for disarmament affairs, says the rising global military expenditure is not just diverting precious financial, material and human resources from productive to non-productive pursuits, but also jeopardizing the environment and the prospects for social and economic development.

Sixteen years ago the world community gathered at the United Nations for the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development. Yet today military expenditure is rising, he told IPS.

Copyright 2003 IPS

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