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Asian Militaries Join Platinum Club

President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” appears to have come at just the right moment. A new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) claims that defense spending in Asia this year is set to overtake that of Europe for the first time in centuries.

The report, which Financial Times calls “a blunt assessment of the shift in the global redistribution of military power across the world”, argues that a combination of strong economic growth and strategic instability is fueling Asia’s military spending boost. Conversely, as the financial crisis took hold in Europe, 16 members of NATO were forced to reduce their defense budgets between 2008 and 2010.

In Asia, much of the increase is driven by China, which upped its share of regional defense expenditure to 30 percent. But the IISS report also points out that Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam are upgrading their air and naval capabilities as well. It may be too early to describe this as an arms race, but there is little doubt the modernization of the Chinese military is making its neighbors rather jittery.

Closer to home, the U.S. remains by far the world’s biggest spender, with a defense budget that exceeds the next ten biggest spenders combined. But American strategists should take note. Europe vividly demonstrates the truth that a strong and sustainable fiscal situation is a crucial element of military superiority.

As the Great Game heats up in Asia, this truth is as important as ever.

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  • Jim.

    Europeans were not *forced* to reduce their defense expenditures. They *chose* to reduce defense, rather than reduce self-imposed and largely unsustainable welfare state spending.

    US defense expenditures have, similarly, dropped from two-thirds less than our Entitlement spending, to *three-quarters less* than our Entitlement spending. That’s right – for every dollar we spend on defense, we spend *four* on entitlements.

    The Imperial Overstretch argument is nonsense. The West is dying of Eurosocialism, period.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    NATO has been in decline for a long time, along with the relative economic strength of Europe. Over the last several decades we have seen the US economy maintain itself at about 22% of the world GDP, while Europe’s share of world GDP has fallen 30%, with the majority of that lost market share being taken by Asian countries.
    So, it’s not that Asia is doing so much better, as rather that the European welfare state model with its reduced incentives to work, massive government monopoly, and equally massive red-tape, cost’s Europe’s economies an average of 1.3% of their potential growth rate as compared to the US and Asian economies.

  • Corlyss

    “as the financial crisis took hold in Europe, 16 members of NATO were forced to reduce their defense budgets between 2008 and 2010.”

    Well, they have to take their opportunities where they find them. Their dismal performances in the face of world-wide terrorism aimed right at their hearts left them with a serious shortage of plausible sounding reasons to eliminate defense spending entirely to support their welfare-state habits. Thank God the economic crisis appeared in just the nick of time!!!! Now they can tell their victimized peoples, “It’s not our fault that we can’t protect you! Evil bankers and speculators robbed us of the money we would have spent on upgrading our defenses.”

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