UNITED NATIONS - After declining in the post-cold war era of the early 1990s,
global military spending is on the rise again threatening to break the
one trillion dollar barrier this year, according to a group of UN-appointed
The 16-member group estimates that military spending will rise to nearly $950
billion by the end of 2004, up from $900 billion in 2003.
By contrast, rich nations spend $50-60 billion on development aid each year.
The 2004 estimates would be "substantially higher if the costs of the major
armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were included," the experts say in
a 30-page report released here.
The U.S. Congress has authorized spending of about $25 billion for Afghanistan
and Iraq in 2004, but that is expected to more than double by the end of the
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate in May that war
spending in Afghanistan and Iraq was approaching about $5 billion a month. He
predicted that total costs for 2005 would be $50-60 billion.
"At a time when global poverty eradication and development goals are not being
met due to a shortfall of necessary funds, rising global military expenditure
is a disturbing trend," warns the UN study.
The report, titled 'The Relationship Between Disarmament and Development in
the Current International Context," will go before the 59th session of
the UN General Assembly beginning mid-September.
"With the end of the cold war, global military expenditure started to decrease,"
the report said. "Many expected that this would result in a peace dividend
as declining military spending and a less confrontational international environment
would release financial, technological and human resources for development purposes."
But that never materialized, say the experts, who included Brigadier (retired)
Richard Baly of the UK department for international development; Friedrich Groning,
deputy commissioner of Germany's arms control and disarmament department; Catharina
Kipp, director of the department for global security in Sweden; and Prasad Kariyawasam,
director-general of the ministry of foreign affairs of Sri Lanka.
"Despite decades of discussions and proposals on how to release resources
from military expenditure for development purposes, the international community
has not been able to agree on limiting military expenditure or establishing
a ratio of military spending to national development expenditure," they write.
At the height of the cold war between the United States and the then Soviet
Union in the 1970s, global military spending rose to over $900 billion. But
with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it kept declining, to about $780 billion
in 1999. The recent increases are due primarily to a significant rise in the
U.S. military budget.
"The United States now accounts for about half of world military spending,
meaning that it is spending nearly as much as the rest of the world combined,"
says Natalie J Goldring, executive director of the Program
on Global Security and Disarmament at the University of Maryland.
"This is difficult to justify on the basis of known or anticipated threats
to U.S. national security," she added.
The world's top five spenders the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom,
France and China account for about 62 percent of total world military expenditure.
The U.S.-led "war on terrorism" following attacks on New York
and Washington in September 2001 has triggered a dramatic increase in U.S.
military spending, boosting overall global figures.
U.S. spending alone has risen from $296 billion in 1997 to $336 billion in
2002 and $379 billion in 2003.
In contrast, Japan spends an average of about $44 billion annually on its military,
France about $40 billion, the United Kingdom about $35 billion and China about
Goldring said that earlier this month, U.S. President George W Bush signed
a military appropriations bill that provides about $417 billion for the Department
of Defense in 2005. "But this is just the down payment on the year's military
spending," Goldring told IPS.
The figure, she pointed out, does not include an estimated $10 billion for
military construction, nearly $20 billion for Department of Energy military
programs, and perhaps another $50 billion for additional costs of U.S. military
actions in Afghanistan and Iraq (beyond the $25 billion already authorized).
The final tab for this year, Goldring said, is likely to be about $500 billion.
"Despite President Bush's rhetoric about realigning military forces, the new
military budget still funds cold war weapons designed to counter expected Soviet
developments. But the Soviet Union hasn't existed for more than a decade,"
On Monday, Bush announced a major deployment of U.S. military forces worldwide,
but it is not expected to reduce the overall size of the country's armed forces.
Goldring predicted that if Bush is reelected in November, the upward trend
in the military budget is likely to continue.
"But even if Senator [John] Kerry is elected, the United States will still
be paying the costs of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and commitment
to poorly conceived military programs, such as ballistic missile defense As
a result, military costs are likely to be difficult to control," she added.
Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate at the World
Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center, said that according to the
2005 budget, the United States will spend about $1.15 billion a day, or $11,000
a second, on defense
"In comparison, we spend half that on public education per year per child
in the United States," she said.
Under the Bush administration, Pentagon spending has increased more than 23
percent (in adjusted dollars). But while many Americans think that money is
for the war on terrorism, that is not the case, Berrigan told IPS.
The defense allocation does not include the costs of ongoing fighting
about $5 billion each month in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"These costs are paid through emergency supplementals. So far, the U.S.
Congress has signed off on $190 billion in supplemental spending for war and
occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan," she added.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that between fiscal year 2005 and
the end of the decade, the United States will spend $2.2 trillion on the military,
feeding the already spiraling global defense spending, she added.
(Inter Press Service)