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The Costs Of America's War Escalating

Though the United States will remain the undisputed military leader in the next 10-20 years, the new round of the arms race planned by the Pentagon will not become a reality. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Viktor Litovkin
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Jun 30, 2006
The Bush administration allocated huge sums towards military programs, though the money was spent not on the planned acquisition of arms, but on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on other similar operations. This means that the U.S. Department of Defense's budget remained the same in fixed prices as under President Ronald Reagan, but spending on acquisitions has been cut to a third.

To implement the armaments programs that are currently at the research and development, or R&D, stage, the United States needs to double or triple its acquisition budget, which is virtually impossible.

The point is that the bulk of spending goes not to defense as such but to overseas operations. Only a tiny percentage of the budget is spent on the defense of the national territory -- 3.7 percent in 2005.

This is logical, as who would threaten the United States? Mexico, or Canada? In contrast, nearly 50 percent of allocations are spent on expeditionary forces. This makes the policy of a global military presence extremely expensive.

On the one hand, the United States is the world's only country to have started buying fifth-generation weapons, despite budgetary, political and economic limitations. They include a new generation of fighters and bombers, unmanned combat air vehicles that use modern precision weapons, and new strike, command, control, communications and reconnaissance systems.

No other country in the world is aspiring to this goal. Russia, China and some Western European countries may be creating or trying to buy pilot new-generation systems, but the United States is the only country that is buying them in large batches.

On the other hand, the country needs to increase military spending by another 1-2 percent of GDP to implement these programs. When President George W. Bush came to power, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the priority goal of "military transformation," a theory of warfare that envisioned lighter, faster, more agile, yet also more lethal combat forces.

In short, he announced the accelerated conversion to fifth-generation weapons and modernization of the military. Half a year later, New York and Washington were hit by a lethal terrorist attack, and the army Bush inherited was sent overseas. Therefore, the Pentagon's spending on transforming the military accounts for less than 1 percent of the defense budget.

The reason is simple: the monthly maintenance of the overseas expeditionary forces costs $9 billion. Moreover, arms and military equipment, which have been operating in extremely difficult conditions for three years, are quickly becoming worn out. This spurs the need for rearmament, but the budgetary bottleneck has not become wider.

Though the United States will remain the undisputed military leader in the next 10-20 years, the new round of the arms race planned by the Pentagon will not become a reality. The trouble is that the United States has also involved the leading Western and Asian players, including Russia, in this race.

What should Russia do in this situation?

Sergei Rogov, director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RIA Novosti that Russia should avoid deeper involvement in a race it cannot win. It still has reliable strategic nuclear deterrence forces, and need not fear suicidal attacks by the nuclear states. The United States's current priorities are overseas operations, but Russian security interests do not require Russian military presence abroad.

There is a shadow hanging over the arms control regime, and Russia should use the experience it acquired during the Cold War to initiate new agreements that would not be limited to Russian-U.S. interaction but would also involve other centers of power. This is one of the huge untapped potentials of Russian foreign policy.

(Viktor Litovkin is a defense commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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