The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has just released data revealing that global military spending has reached an all-time high of $2.2 trillion. This is the largest year-on-year increase since the end of the Cold War. The surge in spending is largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to an immediate increase in spending in Europe and elsewhere. The question now is whether this trend can be reversed.
Presenter Imran Khan discusses this issue with a panel of experts, including Elisabeth Braw, a senior fellow focused on foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, Major General S B Asthana, former director-general of infantry in the Indian Army and director of the United Service Institution of India, and Domitilla Sagramoso, a senior lecturer in security and development at King’s College London.
The panel begins by discussing the reasons behind the increase in military spending. Braw notes that there are several factors at play, including the rise of China as a global power and the increasing threat of terrorism. She also points out that many countries are investing in new technologies, such as drones and cyber capabilities, which are expensive to develop and maintain.
Asthana adds that the geopolitical situation is also contributing to the increase in spending. He notes that there are several ongoing conflicts around the world, including in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, which require significant military resources. Additionally, he argues that countries are increasingly concerned about their own security, particularly as the global balance of power shifts.
Sagramoso agrees that the changing geopolitical landscape is a major factor in the increase in military spending. She notes that many countries are investing in their military capabilities as a way to project power and influence on the world stage. However, she also points out that there are other factors at play, such as domestic politics and the influence of the defense industry.
The panel then turns to the question of whether this trend can be reversed. Braw argues that it will be difficult to reverse the trend, as many countries are investing in new technologies and capabilities that are expensive to develop and maintain. She also notes that there is a lack of political will to reduce military spending, particularly in countries where defense is seen as a key priority.
Asthana agrees that it will be difficult to reverse the trend, but argues that it is necessary to do so. He notes that military spending is taking resources away from other important areas, such as education and healthcare. Additionally, he argues that the focus on military spending is contributing to an arms race, which is destabilizing and dangerous.
Sagramoso adds that there are several steps that can be taken to reduce military spending. She suggests that countries could focus on multilateral disarmament agreements, which would reduce the need for individual countries to invest in their own military capabilities. Additionally, she argues that there needs to be more transparency around military spending, so that citizens can hold their governments accountable for how they are using taxpayer money.
Overall, the panel agrees that the increase in military spending is a concerning trend. While there are several factors at play, including the changing geopolitical landscape and the rise of new technologies, there is a need to reduce military spending in order to free up resources for other important areas. However, achieving this goal will be difficult, as there is a lack of political will and a strong defense lobby in many countries.