As the United States prepares to draw down its military to, if President Barack Obama gets his way, pre-World War II levels, countries around the world that do not exactly share our interests are building up their militaries.
First up on the build-up list – Russia. Even as Russia continues to occupy Crimea, and even as France is hosting talks to defuse that crisis, France began sea trials of the first of two Mistral-class amphibious assault/helicopter carrier ships the Russian Navy bought in 2011 for $1.6 billion, the Vladivostok. The Vladivostok is still on track for a fall 2014 delivery to the Pacific Fleet, with its sister ship, the Sevastopol (yes, it’s named after that Sevastopol in Crimea), due for delivery to the Black Sea Fleet in 2015.
The Mistral-class ships can accomodate 900 troops on a short-term basis along with a normal compliment of 16 helicopters. Ominously, when the Russians ordered the ships, GlobalSecurity.org noted Russian media quoted a Russian naval commander as saying the Mistral would have done in under one hour some of the tasks it took the existing Black Sea Fleet over a day to do during the Russian incursion into Georgia.
Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that the Chinese have upped their acknowledged military spending by 12% to $132 billion.
China made headlines today with its annual military budget, up 12.2 percent to $132 billion dollars this year. That’s about one quarter of the $495 billion military budget that President Obama presented to Congress yesterday.
Predictably, official commentary here stresses that China is a peace-loving nation with no aggressive intentions. But Beijing has also signaled its ambitions to be the power that holds the ring in the western Pacific, and those ambitions have been spelled out, arguably clearer than ever before, in a direct challenge to US military preeminence.
China needs a powerful military, explained Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the National People’s Congress, on Tuesday because “if some country provokes or undermines consensus or even damages peace and order in the region, then China must respond effectively.”
Something tells me that, if the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force had to pay the going rate the Pentagon does, its spending would dwarf the Pentagon’s.