Asien im Aufrüstungswind
USA und Europa geraten bei Militärausgaben immer mehr in Zugzwang *
Im Westen engt der Sparzwang die Verteidigungsbudgets ein. Länder wie China und Indien könnten die USA und Europa bald überholen.
China, Indien, Japan und andere asiatische Länder könnten den Westen nach Expertenansicht noch in diesem Jahr bei den Ausgaben für die Verteidigung überholen. Während die Budgets für das Militär in Europa und den USA seit der Finanzkrise 2008 stetig geschrumpft seien, erhöhten sie sich in Asien weiter, teilte das Internationale Institut für Strategische Studien (IISS) am Mittwoch (7. März) in London mit. Das IISS präsentierte seinen Jahresbericht
»Das Militärische Gleichgewicht«. Bei einem Rückblick auf 2011 stellen die Forscher fest, dass im Nahen Osten und in Nordafrika einige langjährige Annahmen über die Ausstattung des Militärs überworfen werden müssen.
In mindestens 16 europäischen NATO-Staaten habe es in den vergangenen Jahren Einsparungen beim Militär gegeben, so der Bericht. Einige Länder wie Frankreich und Großbritannien versuchten, durch engere Zusammenarbeit Geld zu sparen - mit Blick auf gegenseitige Abhängigkeit ein nicht ungefährliches Unterfangen. Nach einer Phase der Expansion hätten auch die USA ihrem Militär Einsparungen verordnet. Ganz anders in Asien: Unter Berücksichtigung von Inflation und Preisveränderungen seien die Ausgaben in Asien 2011 um rund 3,15 Prozent gestiegen.
Diese Veränderungen in entgegengesetzte Richtung bedeuteten aber noch nicht, dass sich das globale militärische Gleichgewicht bald verschieben werde, erklärte IISS-Generaldirektor John Chipman. Die USA und andere westliche Länder seien bemüht, durch Forschung und Entwicklung einen qualitativen Vorsprung vor Ländern wie China zu behalten.
Mit Blick auf Nordafrika und Nahost stellt das IISS wichtige Veränderungen fest: So sei in den Konflikten des vergangenen Jahres klar geworden, dass einige der Armeen, die man vorher für sehr groß und modern gehalten habe, dies eigentlich gar nicht seien. Stattdessen habe sich herausgestellt, dass es sich um »kleine Herzstücke begünstigter und gut ausgestatteter Truppen« handele, die vor allem dafür da seien, ein Regime zu stützen. Auch der große Einfluss von Familienbanden sei deutlich geworden. In Libyen, Syrien, Jemen und Bahrain seien die Sicherheitskräfte im Konflikt zusammengeblieben und hätten weiter gekämpft. Dort seien Verwandte der Machthaber an Schlüsselpositionen im Einsatz gewesen. In Tunesien und Ägypten hingegen habe es auf hohen Armee- und Polizeiposten keine Familienmitglieder gegeben. Hier habe sich das reguläre Militär vom Regime distanziert.
* Aus: neues deutschland, 8. März 2012
Military Balance 2012 - Press Statement **
This year’s Military Balance sees further improvements to the book’s presentation, information and assessments. The land data sections have been revised to improve understanding of the combined-arms capabilities of modern land forces and the book carries extra detail on armies’ combat support, such as engineering assets. We analyse policy and defence economics questions for the countries with the largest defence budgets in greater detail than before. For many nations, the IISS this year includes brief textual summaries of countries’ military capabilities to help inform readers’ understanding of the numerical data. Also for the first time, the book has brief assessments of individual states’ cyber capacities, including relevant organisations and assessed capabilities.
Concepts associated with this emerging realm – such as what constitutes military cyber power – remain matters of debate. Last year the IISS published an Adelphi book entitled Cyberspace and the State. In it, the authors noted that military cyber power could be defined as ‘the use, or threatened use, of cyberspace and other resources to effect strategic aims in and through cyberspace against the resistance or wishes of others.’ Of course, what assets, doctrines and experience states deploy are vital to any such assessment, and The Military Balance will expand this analysis for more countries in future editions.
Developments in the Middle East
We publish this edition of The Military Balance as the world’s attention is focused on another crisis emerging from the upheavals in the Arab world. This time last year, the potential for foreign intervention in Libya was being much discussed; this year Syria is employing substantial military assets in an attempt to suppress dissent. Yet the difficulties of foreign military engagement are pronounced in Syria. While there are now regional calls to arm the opposition, the practical difficulties of doing this and of the external intervention sometimes mooted are formidable. Against this background, President Assad’s apparent strategy has been to secure regime loyalists, and of course suppress the opposition, while keeping the level of conflict below that which would risk triggering international intervention.
In Libya, the situation was in many ways favourable for intervention.There was a clear mandate to act; Libya is on Europe’s doorstep, so NATO’s limited airlift capability was not tested and its coastline allowed maritime power to be brought to bear; and the rebels had a clear base and objective. The war was noteworthy in other respects: the US mainly withdrew early on from a combat role, though it still provided enabling capacities vital to the mission’s success. The campaign was also noteworthy because of the overwhelming predominance of precision-guided air-launched munitions, setting a new standard for those taking part in future such operations.
One lesson of recent events in the Middle East and North Africa is that what have seemed on paper to be extensive and modern combat forces have been exposed as relatively small cores of favoured and well-equipped troops of which the primary purpose is to bolster regimes. Further, the degree of involvement of leaders’ families in the armed forces has proved influential: in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, where the security services remained cohesive or fought back, relatives of the rulers were entrusted with key command responsibilities; in Tunisia and Egypt, where there were no rulers’ relations in senior army and police positions, the regular military distanced itself from the regime.
What is clear is that the political and military landscape in the Middle East and North Africa is being reshaped, with long-held assumptions about regional power balances, military capabilities and deterrence being challenged. For example, the Arab Awakening has seen unprecedented willingness by several Arab governments to back, and participate in, military operations. Both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates deployed combat forces during the Libya campaign, while the Gulf Cooperation Council deployment to Bahrain demonstrated a differing form of military activism, with forces sent to free up Bahrain’s forces to conduct internal security actions. This year’s Military Balance discusses Arab militaries and the Arab Awakening in a special essay, with a focus on the war in Libya. Another essay looks at lessons of recent conflicts for future combat capabilities.
The West Spends Less, and Asia More
Meanwhile, the global redistribution of military power and of defence spending continues. Since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a convergence in European and Asian defence spending levels. While per capita spending levels in Asia remain significantly lower than those in Europe, on the current trend Asian defence spending is likely to exceed that of Europe, in nominal terms, during 2012.
In Europe, defence budgets remain under pressure and cuts continue to procurement programmes, equipment holdings and defence organisations. Between 2008 and 2010, there have been reductions in defence spending in at least 16 European NATO member states. In a significant proportion of these, real-terms declines have exceeded 10%.
The effect of these cuts across European states was brought into focus by the campaign in Libya, which highlighted existing gaps in targeting, tanker aircraft, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Questions were also raised about the stock-holdings of certain nations’ precision-guided weapons. But given the continuing pressure on European public finances, there is little chance that defence budgets will reverse their downward trend any time soon.
Some European countries are exploring ways to pool and share capabilities, so as to save money while creating the same or even improved capability. This forms part of the ‘smart defence’ initiative proposed by NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Pooling and sharing raises awkward issues, such as that of mutual dependence: some states may question whether they can rely on others to make capabilities available when needed. At its Chicago Summit in May, NATO will identify areas of capability in which member countries will push forward the ‘smart defence’ initiative. But NATO needs to direct this process. Otherwise states – driven by domestic financial priorities and national political timelines – may pay too little attention to Alliance-wide priorities.
The United States, too, has begun to reduce defence spending after a period of substantial expansion. A reassessment of policy and strategy is under way. The goal is that the long stability operations of the past decade will not be undertaken in future. The Pentagon’s new Strategic Guidance indicates a rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific, spurred by Washington’s perception of its economic and security interests in Asia, as well as concerns over anti-access strategies that could be employed by regional competitors. While this is an important shift in the longer term, it is modest in terms of its immediate effect. American troop numbers in Europe will fall by 10,000 to around 70,000, while Marines are to deploy to Australia and Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore.
The Pentagon is being forced by Congress to make hard choices. In manpower terms, the army and Marines will see the largest cuts, but all services will have programmes curtailed, cancelled or delayed. Still, the extent of these cuts should not be exaggerated: the US will remain by far the world’s major military power and the only NATO member capable of sustaining large air–sea operations or of projecting substantial ground forces on a global scale for a sustained period.
While the West reduces its spending on defence, Asia is becoming increasingly militarised, as a result of rapid economic growth and strategic uncertainty. In 2011, Asian defence spending increased overall by 3.15% in real terms, a figure that would have been higher but for rising inflation in the region. China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia accounted for more than 80% of total Asian defence spending.
Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are all investing in improving air and naval capacities, as are India, Japan and South Korea. India, for instance, plans to boost maritime capacities with submarines and aircraft carriers.
China, the region’s top spender, has – according to our estimates – increased its share of regional expenditure to more than 30%. Beijing’s official expenditure in 2011 was more than two-and-a half times the 2001 level. There has been much attention on China’s aircraft carrier and J-20 combat aircraft. But China’s technological advances are more modest than some alarmist hypotheses of its military development have suggested. They represent nascent rather than actual capability. China, for example, does not yet have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from a carrier. However, China’s development of anti-satellite capacities, anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and cyber-warfare capabilities preoccupies foreign defence planners as much as its drive to boost major platform capability. Its growing suite of modern platforms reinforces the gradual change in the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait. That said, the strategic priorities of the People’s Liberation Army are gradually widening from the defence of China’s borders to force projection within East Asia and further afield, in order to secure sea lanes of communication.
Flashpoints and Conflicts
Meanwhile, the world is not short of potential flashpoints and continuing conflicts. The Korean peninsula remains tense, and concerns persist over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile programmes. The death of Kim Jong-il and assumption of power by his son Kim Jong-un heightens concerns about further North Korean nuclear and missile tests and military aggression – concerns that will only be alleviated to a limited extent by last week’s agreement with the United States.
Further south, gunboat diplomacy and brief confrontations between naval, paramilitary and civilian vessels continued in the South China Sea in 2011. Military exercises, and rhetoric, increased during the year. China’s leadership transition is expected to begin this year and, during leadership transitions, sensitive issues that impinge on questions of national sovereignty may be subject to particular attention. Naval competition in the South China Sea will likely continue and interested states will still pursue naval procurements. Managing tensions in the South China Sea will be an increasing challenge.
In the Middle East, regional and international states remain concerned by Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and tensions remain high. In February, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed several advances in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. Three times as many centrifuges are now producing 20% enriched uranium, including 700 centrifuges operating in a deeply buried facility at Fordow. At the other buried facility at Natanz, 9,000 centrifuges are operating, compared to 6,000 in November. Iran has introduced what it called a ‘fourth-generation’ centrifuge, although in practice it still relies almost entirely on first-generation models. The expansion of 20% enrichment, which is close to weapons-usable, and the move to Fordow heightened concerns in Israel, which has strongly hinted at launching a pre-emptive attack before Iran enters what Israel has called a ‘zone of immunity’. Washington has appealed for patience, on grounds that Iran is not on the verge of producing nuclear weapons, that Israeli air strikes would set back Iran’s programme by only a couple of years, and that sanctions are now having a real impact on Iran.
The EU embargo on the purchase of Iranian oil is among the most significant sanctions. It has prompted threats from Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran could attempt this by mining the Strait, using anti-ship missiles or using torpedoes or rockets perhaps launched from Iran’s fleet of submarines or fast attack craft. While these capabilities could disrupt shipping temporarily, the US and its allies maintain significant maritime assets in the region and would soon be able to reopen the Strait. But other options are open to Iran: it could try to avoid giving cause for response by adopting more bureaucratic modalities, such as increasing transit times by imposing demands on vessels using the waters it controls as part of the Traffic Separation Scheme in the Gulf.
Turning to the two recent major wars, the US military presence in Iraq ended in December 2011. Iraq’s security forces have been steadily politicised, with Prime Minister al-Maliki securing control over the armed forces through appointments. This may have made a coup unlikely, but it has introduced incoherence to the chain of command. Iraq’s security forces will probably be able to impose a rough order on the country; they will not, however, be able to defend the country’s borders or airspace.
In Afghanistan, the army and police continue to expand in number, but questions remain over their real capability. Western governments’ intention to withdraw combat forces by 2015 makes more pressing the need for Afghan security forces to assume full responsibility for independent planning, mission execution and sustainment. It also increases the pressure on Kabul and its international supporters, to remedy the institutional weakness in Afghan governance that has so bedevilled the NATO campaign. The IISS has recently examined Afghanistan: to 2015 and beyond in a comprehensive Adelphi book.
The 2012 Military Balance contains a wealth of analysis of regional and global defence developments and trends, as well as rich detail on military capabilities across the world. It tracks the continuing progress of Russia’s defence reforms; the retrenchment and cautious policy development seen last year in Brazil; the emerging security crisis in Mexico and Central America; and defence developments in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The divergent trends in defence spending between the West and Asia that we’ve highlighted today do not necessarily translate into an immediate shift in global military capabilities. The US and other Western nations will look to maintain a qualitative and quantitative edge over states, such as China, through continued investment in research and development, as well as an emphasis on the quality and reliability of equipment, leadership and training. They will focus on maximising value from partnership and cooperation arrangements. Further advances may be sought in advanced technology areas such as unmanned systems, C4ISR capacities, and information and cyber capacities. But the gaps are narrowing. A challenge for the West will be how, in an age of fiscal austerity, to retain the high level of military skills developed through ten years of continuous multinational combat operations when these operations draw to a close, as well as what capabilities procured for these wars should be retained. Non-Western states, with diverse military experiences and defence priorities, may look to the West for lessons and perhaps pointers relating to useful capabilities, organisations and tactics, but they will be less constrained financially. The IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme, as well as the wider IISS research programme will continue, through the Institute’s publications and research activity, to provide detailed, nuanced and cogent analysis of these issues.
** Source: Website of the IISS; http://www.iiss.org
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