Procurement: Trillions For Defense



May 4, 2024: Worldwide military spending reached a record $2.443 trillion in 2023. This was an increase of 6.8 per cent since 2022. This was the largest year-to-year increase since 2009. Global defense spending passed two trillion dollars a year in 2021. The nations with the largest defense budgets remain the same. In 2023 the top ten spenders were the United States, China, India, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea. As usual the United States accounted for the largest amount of global spending, 38 percent of it. China came in at 14 percent while India has 3.6 percent. The number ten nation, South Korea, had 2.4 percent. Russia, long the number two spender has not fallen to number five with 3.2 percent of world spending. The rest of the world, which has about 170 nations, account for 25.3 percent of global defense spending. The current global superpowers are the United States and China, with China a distant second to the Americans.

As of 2023 global defense spending has now increased for nine consecutive years. Another first, since 2009, is that spending increased in four of the major regions, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. A major distortion in national spending occurred because of the war in Ukraine. Here Ukraine survived the Russian 2022 invasion because of enormous military aid from NATO nations and the inability of Russia alone to match those increases. Russian defense spending increased by 24 per cent to $109 billion in 2023. This was a 57 per cent increase since 2014, the year that the war in Ukraine began when Russia annexed Crimea. In 2023 Russia’s military spending made up 16 per cent of total government spending and its military spending as a share of GDP was 5.9 per cent.

Ukraine was the eighth largest spender in 2023, after a spending surge of 51 per cent to reach $64.8 billion. This gave Ukraine a military burden of 37 per cent and represented 58 per cent of total government spending. Ukraine’s military spending in 2023 was 59 per cent the size of Russia’s. That was made possible by the $35 billion in military aid received that year, including $25.4 billion from the United States. Combine this with Ukraine’s own military spending and Ukraine was spending about 91 percent of what the Russians were spending.

While the United States still has the largest defense budget among NATO nations, it combined with the spending of the other 30 NATO members meant NATO nations spent 1.34 trillion dollars on defense, which is about 55 per cent of the global total. Military spending by the United States increased by 2.3 per cent to reach $916 billion in 2023, representing 68 per cent of total NATO military spending. In 2023 most European NATO members increased their military expenditure. Their combined share of the NATO total was 28 per cent, the highest in a decade. The remaining 4 per cent came from Canada and Turkey.

Another change has been the two years of fighting in Ukraine, which has changed the attitudes of NATO nations about their security situation. Russian leaders have openly stated that Ukraine is only the first of several areas they want to conquer in an effort to revive the Soviet empire, or at least as much of the Soviet Union as they can. The Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 because of mismanagement and efforts by regions of the Soviet Union that wanted to become independent states once more. In 1991 that happened with the Soviet Union dissolving into fifteen nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The two largest of these successor states were Russia, now known as the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Russia intended to rebuild its federation into something resembling the Soviet Union and Ukraine was the first acquisition Russia went after. That effort has not proceeded as expected.

None of the new post-Soviet nations want to become part of a new Soviet Union. Russian leader Vladimir Putin sees this as an obstacle that he can and must overcome. Putin seems to ignore the fact that these acquisition goals are opposed by all the other successor states to the Soviet Union. No one wants to return to being part of any new Soviet Union. The only supporter of this revival is the Russian Federation, which wants to restore the Soviet Union as a much larger Russian Federation. The Russians have nuclear weapons and none of the other successor states do. Some, especially Ukraine, did have nuclear weapons in 1991 but gave them up due to a treaty proposed by the United States and other NATO nations. This deal left Russia as the only former Soviet state with nuclear weapons while nations that gave them up, like Ukraine, were guaranteed their continued independence and that Russia would not try, in the future, to conquer Ukraine. That deal lasted 30 years until Putin breached it in 2014 when Russia seized the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and portions of eastern Ukraine.

That dispute festered until 2022 when Russia decided to invade, conquer, and absorb Ukraine back into the Russian Federation. That did not happen because the NATO nations opposed it and wanted to allow Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union. Russia opposed both of these goals and saw the conquest of Ukraine as the solution. In terms of defense spending and total armed forces, NATO is far larger and more powerful than Russia. At the same time Russia and some NATO nations (the United States, Britain, and France) have nuclear weapons. Together the NATO forces far outnumber what Russia can muster. The losses Russia has suffered in Ukraine so far have diminished Russian military power even more. At this point Russia should be willing to negotiate a peace deal. Mainly because Vladimir Putin does not want to admit defeat, that has not happened yet.

Outside of the war in Ukraine, there is not a lot of violence in the rest of the world. There are disputes between India and China over where their mutual border should be. This occasionally gets violent but so far both nations have tried to keep the violence at a low level.

In the Middle East, Iran became more aggressive against Israel, which Iran has long sought to destroy, along with American forces in the region. Iran acted in early 2024, making an unprecedented direct attack on Israel. That attack failed completely, doing minor damage to an Israeli air base where some of Israel’s new F-35 jet fighters were based. Israel currently has 35 F-35s and will eventually have at least 75. Iran sees these aircraft as a major obstacle to Iranian power in the region. After the failure of their early 2024 attack on Israel, Iran has to rethink its military objectives because there is no longer any doubt that Israel is too powerful for Iran to attack successfully.




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