Thursday, January 17, 2019

Donald Trump and the Global Arms Race

While the American media and late night hosts focus on Donald Trump's tweets that make him look like a cartoon president, tweets like this one from December 3, 2018 go pretty much unnoticed:

Let's look at some statistics.  Here is a graphic showing how total global military expenditures as a percentage of GDP has dropped over the last six decades, thanks in large part to the end of the Cold War:

From a high of 6.165 percent in 1960, military expenditures have dropped to their current level (2017) of 2.177 percent, the lowest in nearly 60 years.

Here is a graphic showing how United States military expenditures as a percentage of GDP has varied over the last six decades:

After peaking at just over 9 percent in 1967 (thanks to the war in Vietnam), U.S. military expenditures have fallen to 3.149 percent of GDP.

Here is a graphic showing how Russian Federation military expenditures as a percentage of GDP has varied since 1992:

The Russian Federation's military expenditures dropped to a low of 3.0 percent of GDP in 1998, rose to a high of 5.504 percent in 2016 and fell back to 4.262 percent in 2017.

Here is a graphic showing how China's military expenditures as a percentage of GDP has varied since 1989:

Compared to the United States and Russia, China's military expenditures have been relatively stable, ranging from a high of 2.493 percent of GDP in 1990 to a low of 1.675 percent in 1997.  Currently, China's spending on its military is 1.909 percent of its GDP.

Let's compare military spending for the world's three largest military powers on a current U.S. dollar basis:

As you can clearly see, when measured in terms of current U.S. dollars, the United States spends the most on its military, particularly when one considers the the defense budget for the United States in fiscal 2019 rose to $686 billion ($716 billion if national security is included).

Here is a graphic from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation that compares U.S. military spending to that of the next seven largest military spending nations:

Here is a graphic, also from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, that compares U.S. military spending as a percentage of GDP to that of the next seven largest military spending nations over the years between 1972 and 2017:

Let's close this posting by looking at a partial list of what U.S. taxpayers can expect to get from the $686 billion defense budget for fiscal 2019:


77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters - $10.7 billion
15 KC-46 Tanker Replacements - $3.0 billion
24 F/A-18s - $2.0 billion
60 AH-64E Attack Helicopters - $1.3 billion
6 VH-92 Presidential Helicopters - $0.9 billion
10 P-8A Aircraft - $2.2 billion
8 CH-53K King Stallion - $1.6 billion


2 Virginia Class Submarines - $7.4 billion
3 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Destroyers - $6.0 billion
1 Littoral Combat Ship - $1.3 billion
CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier - $1.8 billion
2 Fleet Replenishment Oilers (T-AO) - $1.1 billion
1 Expeditionary Sea Base - $0.7 billion

Ground Systems

5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles - $2.0 billion
135 M-1 Abrams Tank Modifications - $2.7 billion
30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles - $0.3 billion
197 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles - $0.8 billion

Space Investments

5 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles - $2.0 billion
Global Positioning System - $1.5 billion
Space Based Infrared System - $0.8 billion

Missile Defense

43 AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (SM-3) - $1.7 billion
Ground Based Midcourse Defense - $2.1 billion
82 THAAD Ballistic Missile Defense - $1.1 billion
240 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancements - $1.1 billion


43,594 Joint Direct Attack Munitions - $1.2 billion
9,733 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) - $1.2 billion
6,826 Small Diameter Bomb I - $0.3 billion
1,260 Small Diameter Bomb II - $0.4 billion
7,045 Hellfire Missiles - $0.6 billion
360 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range - $0.6 billion
1,121 Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles - $0.3 billion

Nuclear Triad

B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber - $2.3 billion
Columbia Class Submarine - $3.7 billion
Long-Range Stand-Off Missile - $0.6 billion
Ground Based Strategic Deterrent - $0.3 billon

That's a pretty sweet shopping list if you happen to be a corner office dweller at one of America's defense contractors!

While there is no doubt that there is a lot of nonsense tweeted by America's current president, his tweet of December 3, 2018 flies right in the face of America's military-industrial complex and its demands from Washington.  Without Washington spending hundreds of billions of dollars on goods manufactured by America's defense industry, these businesses would be a lot less profitable, resulting in far lower compensation for its senior executives.  Unfortunately, much of America's mainstream media will proclaim that, should Donald Trump try to negotiate reduced military spending by the three largest militaries in the world, he will have sold out his own military just to placate the Russians and the Chinese.

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