Global military expenditures reached their peak in 2018, and the driving force behind this increase is the growing appetite of the US military-industrial complex rather than real threats, analysts say.
The world spent $1.8 trillion on its military in 2018, the latest report by the acclaimed Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The US and its NATO allies – the self-proclaimed defenders of freedom and democracy – account for more than half of this whopping amount.
Washington’s other close friend Saudi Arabia is the third largest military spender, coming ahead of India.
“A lot of this spending, particularly in the case of Saudi Arabia and India, is for political reasons,” Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst at the Pentagon, told RT. New Delhi and Riyadh seek to “curry favor” with Washington by purchasing the US weapons in hope for concessions in other areas, he explained.
Washington’s NATO allies have seen pressure from the US related to their military spending ever since Donald Trump came to power in the White House. Maloof believes it has less to do with security of the alliance and more with the interests of the US arms manufacturers.
“A lot of that is aimed at trying to help the US defense industry to stay ahead [of their competitors] and hire more people,” he explained, adding that the issue of the military expenditures has a “clear economic dimension.”
In its desire to sate the always-hungry domestic military industrial complex, the US risks escalating tensions on the international arena, analysts warn. Washington’s hawks typically justify the need for ever-increasing military expenditures with some perceived threats from Russia or China, portraying them as war mongers.
“There is no good reason” for larger defense budgets, Ted Seay, a former US diplomat and senior policy consultant with the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), told RT. It is the West’s fear of the perceived ‘Russian threat’ that has in fact led to destabilization on the European continent, he noted.
“There are military provocations taking place between NATO and Russia where there should not be any far in the 21th century when there is no logical reason for any confrontation between Europe and Russia,” Seay said.
The former US diplomat also denounced as senseless the NATO “formula” demanding that member states spend two percent of their GDP on defense.
There is not a military situation that necessitates [the likes of] Latvia or Poland to find a solution in greater military spending. It simply does not exist in this age. But there are people who seem to be intent on creating confrontation and encouraging the NATO countries to spend more money with no good reason.
Yet, it is precisely Poland and the Baltic States that top the list of nations with the highest annual defense spending increases in Europe over the recent years.
Poland’s military budget rose by 8.9 per cent in 2018 to $11.6 billion, according to SIPRI, while Latvia upped its military expenditures by staggering 24 percent over the same period. Bulgaria and Ukraine – which is not in NATO – followed closely, increasing their spending by 23 and 21 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, the US and its allies grossly outspend all the nations they perceive as alleged threats. The US expenditures alone accounted for 36 percent of global defense spending while exceeding the expenditures of the next eight largest-spending countries combined in 2018. NATO’s total military spending accounted for 53 percent of the global defense expenditures.
China was the only Washington’s perceived rival that made it into top 5 military spenders in 2018. However, Beijing’s defense budget amounted to only a fraction of the US one and accounted for 14 percent of the global military spending.
Russia, meanwhile, came it at number six by spending some $61.4 billion on the military in 2018, following consecutive defense budget cuts in the last two years. However, these facts do not stop the biggest military spender in the world to accuse Moscow of somehow initiating an “arms race.”
Anyway, the latest trends show that the world is unlikely to see easing of tensions on the international arena anytime soon, Seay warns.
“Too many people have too much money invested in war,” he said.