29 April 2019   Leave a comment

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released its annual report on military spending in 2018. Global military spending reached $1.8 trillion in 2018. The two largest spenders were the US and China and the two states accounted for half of the total for the world.

“Total global military spending rose for the second consecutive year in 2018, to the highest level since 1988—the first year for which consistent global data is available. World spending is now 76 per cent higher than the post-cold war low in 1998.* World military spending in 2018 represented 2.1 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $239 per person. ‘In 2018 the USA and China accounted for half of the world’s military spending,’ says Dr Nan Tian, a researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. ‘The higher level of world military expenditure in 2018 is mainly the result of significant increases in spending by these two countries.’”

Interestingly, despite Russian President Putin’s rhetoric about Russian military capabilities, Russian military spending has declined. According to the Economist:

“The most interesting contraction is, however, in Russia. “Can they count?” President Vladimir Putin asked of his Western rivals in February. “I’m sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing”. But despite the theatrical flaunting of new missiles, and NATO’s impressive rearmament to the west, SIPRI calculates that Russia’s defence budget actually shrank by 3.5% in 2018—putting it outside the top five for the first time in over a decade. This may be the result of a weakening rouble. But Russia’s long military spending spree seems to be drawing to a close. That is a sobering thought for Mr Putin.

The US is increasing its military spending at a rapid rate. According to National Public Radio:

” In 2018, Congress gave the military an additional $61 billion in appropriations — giving the U.S. what then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called ‘the largest military budget in history.’

“Trump this year has proposed increasing military spending by $33 billion — a 5% increase. At the same time, Trump is proposing cutting spending on diplomacy and development by $13 billion, or 23%. Trump has also criticized American allies in NATO for not spending enough on defense.”

It is difficult to imagine that pace of spending can persist for a long period of time, particularly since the US budget deficit has increased substantially in the last year. Forbes details the deficit: “The official estimated deficit for the year is supposed to be just under $1.09 trillion. If the current pace keeps up, the total could run to almost $1.4 trillion.”

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) won the largest number of seats in yesterday’s national elections, but it fell short of amassing a majority. At the same time, however, the Spanish far-right party, Vox, achieved representation in the Parliament. Jacobin analyzes the rise of the party and places it in the context of European politics as a whole:

“Vox shares the same fundamental precepts as the other comparable formations in surrounding European countries. It is a nativist and ultranationalist force, deeply opposed to immigration and promoting a strongly Islamophobic message. In economic terms, it is much closer to the ultra-neoliberal doctrines of Jair Bolsonaro and US libertarians than to the protectionist measures promised by Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (ex-Front National).”

It remains to be seen how the PSOE will manage a majority coalition. The uncertainty raised by the election (the 3rd Parliamentary election in 4 years) makes it difficult to predict. More than likely, any coalition will be fragile. European politics continues to defy clear analysis.

Posted April 29, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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