Economic crisis, and still high(er) armament budgets?
Since 2008 the world has been hit hard by the economic and financial crisis. Government expenditures are being severely cut on a global scale with harsh social consequences. Notwithstanding the smaller official budgets the military spending is hardly concerned by the cuts.
Since 2008 the world has been hit hard by the economic and financial crisis. Government expenditures are being severely cut on a global scale with harsh social consequences. Notwithstanding the smaller official budgets the military spending is hardly concerned by the cuts. In 2011 the world spent 1,738 billion dollar on defense matters, the largest amount ever.
Defense is a department that has little suffered from savings. Military spending grows in the world at a 5% annual average. Africa is economically suffering but it spent in 2011 8.6% more on defense than the previous year. In the period 2002-2011 we even noticed a rise of 65%. Over the 11 years that followed the September attack on New York's twin towers, US defense budget grew with 84% and reached the record amount of 716 billion dollar or 4.6% of US GNP. Big rival power Russia does not want to stay behind and increased its defense budget for 2011 with 9.3% compared to the year before, up to 71.9 billion dollar. In Asia, the Middle East and Oceania military expenditures are increasing too.
Only in a number of European Union member states global crisis seems to influence defense budgets to a certain degree. South-European countries are forced to heavy austerity operations the scope of which indeed also reaches the defense department. But can we speak of a real turning point? Although the Greek defense is to cut 16%, one should consider that this country had for many years the biggest defense budget in the Union (3.2% of GNP in 2009). The Greek payments for arms purchases reached a peak in the years 2009-2010. Although it organized consecutive saving rounds, Athens was obliged to comply with the payment of arms deals with France and Germany. While in 2010 these countries were pressuring Greece to save 1.8 billion Euro in social expenditures, they signed the same year lucrative arms contracts with Athens worth 1.2 billion dollar.
In recent years one of the bigger increases in military spending in Europe was seen in Spain, which is now struggling with the consequences of a very deep crisis. This country has to cope with the challenge of repaying a 26 billion Euro debt to its arms suppliers. The Spanish minister of defense had to admit in October 2010: “We shouldn't have bought systems we shall never use, for conflict scenarios that do not exist, and what makes it worse, with means we don't nor didn't possess.”
NAVO pushes further arming
Pressure from the US and NATO in order not to cut too drastically in defense expenditures is very considerable. NATO secretary general, Rasmussen, warned in 2011 that too low a level of defense expenses, would make Europe more divided and weaker. He also claimed that the 'defense gap' with NATO partner United States would risk to become too big. Apart from the discussion whether NATO does or doesn't have an answer to the economic, social and environmental challenges where our planet is being confronted with, it is obvious that the defense gap between Europe and the USA is primarily the consequence of the fact that American defense budget almost doubled in the last ten years. The question is whether we should continue to participate in such a story.
Aren't there any better ways in times of crisis to spend government funds than in an ever growing armament sector?
This will be the main discussion theme at our 8th Brussels peace conference scheduled November 17, 2012.
Ludo De Brabander