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09/06/2010 | Western Military Power to Wane

Zachary Fillingham

The sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and soon America, will exert tremendous pressure on national defense budgets, resulting in a re-alignment of global military power from West to East.


David Cameron’s warnings of ‘tough’ and ‘painful’ spending cuts ahead of an emergency budget in the UK have become somewhat of a common refrain in Europe of late. As national governments scramble to rein in spending and ward off speculative bond vigilantes from driving up bond prices, defense spending has emerged as a natural target for austerity cuts. 

The British government is currently conducting a strategic defense review that will decide the fate of several wasteful procurement programs in the British defense establishment. All told, 14 programs at the British Ministry of Defense have been allowed to run over budget, costing the government an additional £4.5 billion. In the case of the UK, it’s not a question of whether there will be cuts, but rather when they’ll come and what they’ll target. 
While Britain’s legacy as a maritime power should serve as a drag against comprehensive cuts, the extent of the current fiscal malaise ensures that big cuts will be forthcoming. According to Prime Minister Cameron, if substantial government spending cuts aren’t implemented immediately, Britain will be paying £70 billion annually in interest payments within five years. Given the enormity of the problem, expect a double-digit cut in defense spending over the next five years. The new aircraft carrier program will survive due to its symbolic potency; however it’s quite likely that doubts will once again come to the surface over the viability of the long-term, $32 billion Trident replacement program
While one can only examine Britain and conclude the inevitability of defense cuts, the process of slashing military budgets has already begun in Germany. Encumbered by the ever-widening Euro financial crisis and the necessity of maintaining its own AAA credit rating, the German government has pledged to implement annual cuts of $1.3 billion to its $38.5 defense budget. Berlin is also considering a series of drastic military reform proposals such as reducing the standing army by more than a third and doing away with conscription.  

France has already embarked on a program to cut over 50,000 military and civilian personnel over the next few years, and an announcement on wide-ranging cuts to its $40 billion defense budget (2009) is expected in the near future. 
And finally, Italy’s defense spending will be cut by 10 percent in 2011 as part of the austerity package announced by the Italian government on May 26th. 
What we are witnessing in Europe follows a fairly simple dynamic: states are paying out way more than they’re taking in, and this problem is being compounded by the ever-increasing amount of state revenue that must be put towards servicing national debt.  There’s no reason to believe that this very same pressure won’t eventually extend to the United States- a state that is predicted to be devoting $700 billion to federal debt payments by 2018. 
All of this is occurring against the backdrop of global increases in military spending, mainly in the Americas and Asia. As the United States eventually scales back its military spending and Asian countries ramp theirs up, the global balance of military power will begin to shift towards a more equitable distribution.



May 31st - June 7th, 2010 



United States

Unable to agree that they ought to levy a global tax on financial institutions, G20 nations appear to be setting themselves up for a compromise on financial system reform in which broad policy objectives are set globally but individual countries are left to decide the best means by which to implement those objectives.


The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says.


Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the one-time al-Qaida banker and number three leader whose death was announced Tuesday, helped finance the 9/11 hijackers but was reportedly opposed to the attacks. 


BP hopes to contain the spill from its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico within 24 hours, its chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, has said.


The latest attempt to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil leak has failed, the oil giant BP has said.




NATO peacekeepers and police separated thousands of ethnic Albanians and Serbs in the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica on Sunday during the worst ethnic unrest since the country's independence two years ago.


Police violently dispersed anti-Kremlin rallies in Russia's largest cities and detained dozens of protesters on Monday, as President Dmitry Medvedev was set to welcome European Union leaders at a summit.



Egypt has on Friday kept Rafah crossing on its borders with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip open for the third consecutive day, and thousands of Gaza Strip residents had crossed to Egypt.


Turkey has warned it may reduce economic and defence ties with Israel following the deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla.


Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel had "no other choice" but to stop the flotilla of ships which tried to break the Gaza blockade on Monday.

Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel's version of events that led to the deaths of at least 10 people. 

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday urged Israel to release individuals and vessels captured during Monday's interception of a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy.


Israeli police questioned on Tuesday hundreds of international activists arrested aboard Turkish-backed aid ships bound for Gaza in a naval operation that left nine people dead and sparked an international outcry.


Iran has amassed enough fissile material to build two nuclear bombs, according to the United Nations atomic watchdog.


The United States said Thursday it hopes for a UN Security Council vote by June 21 on tough new sanctions against Iran over what it calls its continued failure to curb its nuclear ambitions.




Tribal leaders in Afghanistan are holding the final day of a national peace meeting in the capital, Kabul.


Militants have tried to attack a national peace meeting being opened by President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital, Kabul.




Japanese lawmakers have elected Naoto Kan as the country's new prime minister, two days after the surprise resignation of Yukio Hatoyama.


The White House said Wednesday Japan was one of America's "best friends" in the world, and that the relationship would not be adversely affected by the departure of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.


Japan and the United States reached a new accord Friday on the relocation of a key U.S. Marine base in Okinawa that basically endorsed an existing 2006 pact to move the facility within the prefecture, ending a bilateral row but putting the coalition government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in danger of collapsing.



Ivory Coast

Dutch prosecutors have accused multi-national oil trading firm Trafigura of illegally exporting hazardous waste to Ivory Coast in 2006.



The Deepwater Horizon disaster caused headlines around the world, yet the people who live in the Niger delta have had to live with environmental catastrophes for decades (Canada)


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