By Tao Yu
US President Donald Trump, in tweet, recently said that “I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.” He also complained that “The US spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” Some analysts pointed out that rather than discussing with China and Russia to reduce military spending, the US is better off with less intervention and less military use.
As is known to all, the US is a military power and its strong military strength is basically based on money. Its annual military expenditure of $716 billion is more than the total of the rest of the world.
However, in recent years, a contradiction between its maintenance of global hegemony and the shortage of military spending has gradually emerged. Trump announced in October that he would cut the budget in the fiscal year 2020 due to the rising deficit. Among the proposed cuts, the Pentagon’s allocation would be reduced to $700 billion, a decrease of $16 billion from the fiscal year 2019, and far below the expected $733 billion of the US military.
It is worth mentioning that Trump had publicly promised to substantially increase military spending at the beginning of his administration. As a result, he became very popular among the US military. However, Trump’s change of mind has caused dissatisfaction.
The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum on November 30 that more funds should be allocated for the Pentagon and that he opposed Trump’s reduction in defense spending, the US Naval Institute (USNI) reported on November 28.
Mattis said that major budget cuts “would be a dangerous disservice to our troops and the American people they serve and protect. We all know that America can afford survival.” The US Senate Committee on Armed Services also issued a statement saying that if there was no steady growth in military spending and a clear defense strategy, the US will not be able to cope with threats from countries such as Russia.
The Army Times of the US reported by quoting an expert that “Russia and China are the two driving forces behind the rise of US military spending. Trump’s remarks indicate that he wants to achieve the goal of reducing military spending through negotiations with China and Russia.”
However, the question is: who is leading the arms race? Reuters recently reported that China’s defense budget is only one-fourth the size compared with that of the US, and China’s growth rate is not the fastest.
Some analysts pointed out that China pursues a defensive national defense policy. China’s national defense and military construction must focus on the challenges of its security environment and tackle the changes in technology and war style, as well as coordinate with domestic social development. In this way, China’s current military spending is still at a reasonable level.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said on the afternoon of December 4 in response to “a meaningful halt to arms race” by Trump that peace and development are the common themes of our era, and China is committed to the path of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy which is defensive in nature. China has never taken part in arms race of any kind or posed threat to any country, he added.
James Carafano, an expert from the US Heritage Foundation, said that Trump who always keeps a tougher stance announced several months ago that the US would pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 and as a result, the tweet by Trump aims to warn Russia that if it does not sit down at the negotiating table, it will face US military expansion and race.
The US has been a war profiteer for a long time. It has carried out military interventions around the world, and even provoked military conflicts or wars. To date, the US still has military operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
According to statistics, the US has invested more than $10 trillion in the last 10 wars. The US military operations in these countries are still on-going and a large amount of military expenditure is still needed.
Therefore, some analysts said that Trump’s aforesaid tweet is intended to get an advantage by making concessions. Trump hopes that Russia will return to the negotiating table on the grounds of “cutting military spending to stop the arms race.”
Disclaimer: The author is Tao Yu. The article was published on the China's National Defense newspaper on December 10. It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military online.