The world's military spending is at an all-time high.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that total spending was $1.8 trillion in 2018. SIPRI Senior Researcher Pieter Wezeman calls it a “worrying trend.”
Total spending last year was 76 percent higher than it was in 1998, the lowest year since the end of the Cold War. Military spending began rising after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people in the United States.
The U.S. accounts for more than a third of world military spending. Experts say the American military remains the world’s strongest. It has 11 aircraft carriers, a powerful nuclear weapons supply, new fighter airplanes and about 2.1 million troops.
"I think sometimes there's a tendency to make Russia and China 30 feet tall, and they're not," said Bradley Bowman, a former military officer. He is now a top director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He told VOA that Russia and China have “real vulnerabilities” that the U.S. could make use of in a conflict.
But, he added, “there are also areas where they're more advanced than we are."
'Coerce and defeat'
China is now the world's second-largest military spender. It went from just 2 percent of the world's military budget in 1990 to 14 percent in 2018.
Bowman warned allies and partners about China’s purpose in the costly improvements in its military. He said it is planning to bring on conflict with the U.S. and its allies -- and win.
China built two aircraft carriers in the past 10 years, and a third one is in production. It has developed its own modern fighter planes. And, its troop numbers have grown to more than 2.5 million. The country is also investing in new technologies, including weapons that would fly at five times the speed of sound.
Wezeman says the speedy progress China has made has been seen “as a threat by its neighbors."
Other top spenders
In reaction, India has increased its military spending by more than $11 billion in just three years. It now comes in fourth in military budgets, behind Saudi Arabia.
Last year, Russia dropped out of the top five spending countries. But it still has NATO's attention after invading Georgia in 2008 and annexing part of Ukraine in 2014.
The 29 NATO countries spent $963 billion -- 53 percent of world military spending -- in 2018.
That number is likely to increase as the United States continues to pressure NATO allies to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
"We can't let countries off the hook," U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "You can't simply substitute and say, 'Well, my 2 percent is going to go to technology, or I'm going to build infrastructure.' We need real capability."
I’m Caty Weaver.
Words in This Story
revisionist - adj. supportive of ideas and beliefs that differ from and try to change accepted ideas and beliefs especially in a way that is seen as wrong or dishonest
tendency - n. a quality that makes something likely to happen or that makes someone likely to think or behave in a particular way
vulnerabilities - n. areas of weakness open to attack, harm, or damage
advanced - adj. more developed, ahead
annex - v. to add (an area or region) to a country, state, etc. : to take control of (a territory or place)
gross domestic product - n. phrase the total value of the goods and services produced by the people of a nation during a year not including the value of income earned in foreign countries — abbreviation GDP
let off the hook - expression release from responsibility
infrastructure - n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly