The real problem is excessive military spending by the USA

The usually hawkish Globe and Mail has a commentary by columnist Lawrence Martin that gets it right this time — rather than NATO members being guilty of spending too little on defence, the real problem is the obscene level of overspending by the USA.

Martin notes first that, even without taking into account the American contribution, NATO members collectively currently spend almost four times that of Russia.  When you add in the outsized American contribution, that figure jumps to twelve times as much.

Says Martin:

No NATO country has been attacked by the Russians under Mr. Putin. Given the [NATO] alliance’s military superiority and the commitment of members to defend one another, it would be senseless for him to do so. He’s a lot of things. He isn’t senseless.

And let us not forget that Canada, in June 2017, announced a whopping 70% increase in defence spending over the next ten years, an increase denounced as excessive in previous blogs here and here.

And let us further recall that, even before this latest gargantuan increase, the Department of National Defence had been unable to spend its annual allocation, averaging 1 billion in lapsed funds for the past ten years. And the figure has more than doubled for 2017, with $2.3 billion in funds unspent.

Under the new Liberal accounting rules, however, the monies don’t go back to general revenues but stay with DND, so we can expect the 2018 figure for unspent funds to be even higher.  In the view of RI President Peggy Mason:

As we have repeatedly stated, why should DND even be considered for budgetary increases, when they are manifestly incapable of spending the sums already allocated?

But back to Trump’s absurd demand that NATO commit to a new target of 4% of GDP.  In an online CBC article, Peter Armstrong notes that, for Canada, this would amount to $60 billion. And to reach that level would, in turn, require huge cuts in social services or an equally huge tax hike. He concludes:

Consider what an additional $60 billion would buy us: 46,000 affordable housing units or 6,500 new water-treatment plants in First Nations communities or 180 Super Hornet fighter jets. It’s all about priorities.

For the full Globe and Mail article click: No, Trump, your allies aren’t deliquent on defence spending (Lawrence Martin, 12 July 2018).

For the full CBC article click: Sure, we could spend 4% of GDP on the military — with huge cuts or tax hikes  (Peter Armstrong,, 13 July 2018).

For further information on global military spending including the significant decline in Russia levels, see: Global military spending remains high at $17 trillion (SIPRI, 2 May 2018).

Photo credit: Department of Finance, Canada via

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “The real problem is excessive military spending by the USA”

  1. Patrick McEneaneyJuly 14, 2018 at 12:31 am #

    What Canada is doing in Latvia and Ukraine is simply aggression against Russia , didn’t Russia ie USSR give total independence to that country back in 1990. The two countries that certainly don’t need more Real Estate in the world is Russia and Canada!!. In deposits of mineral resources I’d say next to Africa is Russia. Why is Canada so unfriendly to Russia ? I’d say it’s because Russia is such a huge country and independent of any other country and the USA Empire see it as the main obstacle to their world domination and Canada is helping them to do so!!

  2. George JacobyJuly 13, 2018 at 8:10 pm #

    Nato may serve some useful collective defence purposes, but is not a platform for Donald Trump to demand defense spending to the excessive even obscene levels of the USA. The US spends these amounts to be the world’s dominant military power hegemon. Only a small portion might be related to defence of Nato or Asian allies (Korea, Japan and Taiwan) on behalf of which no USA military action has been taken amid a sea of USA. aggressive military actions ranging from Vietnam, southeast Asia, to west Asia Iraq and Afghanistan and military aid to nearly every USA interest in btween.. Even this level of USA military spending is not needed for so called deterrence, nuclear or otherwise, since this practise is mainly applied on a bilateral level with Russia and China and unlikely to be used to defend an ally if it meant serious nuclear destruction of the American homeland. Interesting that article 5 of Nato has ever only been deployed in response to the El Qaeda terrorist attack on the USA which in return has caused the allies to be drawn into interminable and unwinable or unsuccessful wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Mali as part of a neverending war against terrorism whose parameters are defined mainly by the USA.
    In Korea the USA has embarked on high risk diplomacy with North Korea seemingly oblivious that the main costs of failure fall on South Korea and enforces deterrence in Taiwan in a highly uncertain environment. This all points to greater and cooperation in these Alliance relations with less US domination and due consideration of the military costs and benefits are needed i they are to continue to prevent war. In its current state of isolationism and skepticism of alliances, it is really doubtful that the would want an increase in military spending by its allies to the USA levels as this could eventually pose a challenge in arms and policy to US world military domination

  3. Ane StreeterJuly 13, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

    NATO is a farce that doesn’t even adhere to its own charter (article 6) that states it is not to interfere in non Nato countries. NATO is controlled by the U.S. whose military manpower (hundreds of bases around the world) and sale of military hardware keeps the American economy afloat. Shame on Justin Trudeau for falling into place! NATO’s purpose is no longer relevant and they need a war to survive. NATO needs to be rejigged or done away with all together.

  4. Larry KazdanJuly 13, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

    Can Canada afford tens of billions of dollars for high-tech fighter jets, updated warships, armed drones and state-of-the-art frigates? That question seldom deters. A majority government simply decides what it wants and allocates sufficient monies.

    Can Canada afford several billion dollars to house the homeless and create affordable housing for low-income families? That question is often asked and provides politicians with a suitable excuse. However, the federal government can always make funds available and can always build housing if desired since it owns a central bank. Canada does not lack a trained workforce nor construction materials.

    The problem is not economics, but political power. The military-industrial complex has greater influence over awarding of federal contracts than urban street people sheltered in cardboard boxes.

    1. William Mitchell is Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

    British Green’s leader can’t say “we will increase the deficit”!

    She could have simply said – “If we are in government, then the British people will understand we issue the currency and we will pay for this by increasing the deficit and instructing the Bank of England to credit the necessary bank accounts to facilitate the purchases.”

    That is the plain truth of it.

    They can do that. If there is a need for 1/2 million more social houses then they should do that as long as it is within the real economy’s capacity to provide the housing.

    If it is not in the capacity then they would have to assess priorities and perhaps have to raise taxes to withdraw spending capacity from the private sector.

    Simple macroeconomics.

  5. Angus CunninghamJuly 13, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

    That Putin has been outsmarting the Western Alliance is a reality that has not received much coverage in the Anglosphere. Why? Likely it is because the western military-industrial complex, a tribe whose demands for government funding President Eisenhower warned Westerners against being intimidated by, is substantially owned by English-speaking investors, is operated by English-speaking people and sells vast amounts of military equipment to non-English-speaking people. It’s long past time for the Anglosphere to acknowledge that our claims of protecting human rights have increasingly, since the 1980s, become (a) hypocritical profit-making hogwash and (b) a net drag on genuine progress in human well-being. Disclosure: My father, whom I admired greatly for his service in WWII and the relatively peaceful winding down of the British Empire, was a Lt. Col. in the British Royal Artillery and I myself almost joined the RAF as a cadet pilot.

  6. Jennifer WadeJuly 13, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

    Why are we even considering supporting the very military-industrial complex that Eisenhower so feared would develop in the USA and it has?