|Volume 52 Number 6, March 26, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Article from TASS, June 24, 2021
NATO member states continue building up their military expenditures despite the slump in GDP during the pandemic, and this spending together with US appropriations exceed the Russian Army budget by almost 20 times, Secretary of Russia's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said at the Moscow international conference on security.
Many in the West keep talking about Russia's alleged aggressive and expansionist policy, the security chief noted.
"But let us look at the facts: NATO countries continue to allocate larger proportions of funds for military goals. Although the global GDP shrank by more than 6% in the pandemic period in 2020, the alliance's military spending grew almost by 4%. In absolute figures, NATO's military expenditures, excluding the United States, exceed the Russian Army budget by almost five times and almost by 20 times, taking the US military appropriations into account," Russia's security chief emphasised.
"Russia knows well the harmful consequences that the bloc-based policy can bring about for international and regional security," Patrushev pointed out.
"The recent NATO summit demonstrated an unprecedented anti-Russian charge and confirmed the alliance's claims for the role of a global police force. In this situation, the policy assumed by Russia towards building up its defense capability holds no alternative for us today," the Russian security chief stressed.
According to the Russians themselves, Russian military spending is just 5% of NATO military spending. That is about right.
Total NATO spending is over 1 trillion dollars a year. Russian defence spending in 2019 was $65.1 billion a year, just higher than the UK. So nominally Russian spending is a little over 6% of NATO spending a year. Of course, purchasing power in the defence industry makes nominal calculations not entirely helpful. Here is a short link from an excellent discussion from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of the factors that might make Russian real resources put into defence greater than the nominal total:
Nonetheless, there are strong indications that military goods and services cost less in Russia than in the USA or most of Europe and, therefore, that Russian military spending has a higher purchasing power. For example, unlike the USA and other large European states, Russia still relies on conscription. In addition, Russian career soldiers have lower salaries: for example, in 2019 a Russian lieutenant colonel received approximately $1330 per month, whereas a (lower-ranked) captain in the British Army received more than $4000 monthly. Adequate data to make a similar comparison of the cost of acquiring military equipment is not available.
Converting Russian military expenditure using GDP-based PPP rates (based on data from the International Monetary Fund) gives spending of $166 billion in 2019 (instead of $65.1 billion using market exchange rates). This is still less than one-quarter of US spending of $732 billion. A similar calculation gives Chinese military spending of over $500 billion (instead of $261 billion using market exchange rates).
I would argue that while paying and feeding troops may be indeed be much cheaper in Russia, military hardware costs are much dependent on metals, processors and other internationally traded commodities and an overall comparison to the simple relative cost of living PPP index for Russia is not appropriate. But even using the general IMF PPP calculator, Russian defence spending is, at the very most, 12% of NATO spending.
The idea that NATO has to spend more to match the threat to NATO of Russia is plainly a nonsense.
So those of us who have always opposed NATO's militarism, NATO's involvement in illegal wars and NATO's massive propaganda operation aimed at boosting the funds fed in to the arms manufacturers, the security services and the military, should welcome the opportunity for growing understanding that a large portion of this defence expenditure is not necessary.
Finally, a couple of thoughts on nuclear weapons. Putin has put his nuclear forces at some kind of initial alert level. In a rational world, this would lead to an increased demand for genuine attempts at nuclear disarmament negotiations, but again I fear that is not in the interest of the elites who control governments. NATO's insistence on pushing missile systems ever closer to a nuclear-armed Russia and continually ratcheting up Russia's fear of aggressive encirclement, will make it extremely unlikely that Russia will have any interest in disarmament. Which is so obvious, it proves NATO has absolutely no interest in disarmament either.
NATO does not defend the interests of the people of Europe. It embodies the interests of the global elite, who benefit from feeding the military industrial complex. NATO is an instrument of the military and the weapons manufacturers. To exist, it needs an enemy. NATO's role will always be to secure its own existence and its controllers' cashflow, by creating enemies.