Posts Tagged ‘military spending’

U.S. Intelligence Chief Warns of China Spending to Boost Influence — Wary of reported North Korea offer for talks

March 6, 2018

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U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned on Tuesday that China is spending “an extraordinary amount of money” to increase its international standing, worrying its neighbors and threatening U.S. influence.

“A report was recently released, an unclassified version, that China will spend about $8 billion in 68 different nations establishing its geostrategic positioning, not only for economic purposes and trade purposes, but also for use of military facilities,” Coats told a U.S. Senate hearing on “Worldwide Threats.”

China on Monday unveiled its largest defense spending increase in three years, setting an 8.1 percent growth target this year, fueling an ambitious military modernization program.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed the largest military budget since 2011, focused on beefing up the United States’ nuclear defenses and countering the growing strength of China and Russia.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Walsh; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Tuesday that Washington would have to know far more before assessing North Korea’s reported willingness to hold talks with the United States on denuclearization.

“Hope springs eternal but we need to learn a lot more relative to these talks. And we will. And the IC (intelligence community) will continue to do every possible collection and assessment we can relative to the situation in North Korea. I know we’ll be talking about that issue,” Coats told a U.S. Senate Armed Services hearing on worldwide threats.

North Korea is willing to hold talks with the United States on denuclearization and will suspend nuclear tests while those talks are under way, South Korea said on Tuesday after a delegation returned from the North where it met leader Kim Jong Un.

The director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, told the same Senate hearing that he did not share a sense of optimism about the report and wanted to know more.

“Right now I don’t share your optimism,” Ashley said in response to a question from a senator. “That’s kind of a ‘show me,’ and so we’ll see how this plays out,” Ashley added.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Will Dunham


House GOP Plans Spending Vote to Fund Military

February 6, 2018

Bill meant to extend government funding and avert shutdown is unlikely to pass the Senate; Democrats press for an equal increase for domestic programs

Image result for Carlos Curbelo, photos

WASHINGTON—House GOP leaders on Tuesday are expected to bring up for a vote legislation that would fund the Defense Department for the rest of the fiscal year, but keep the rest of the government running only through March 23, setting up a showdown with the Senate.

With the government’s current funding set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday, House Republicans are preparing to approve a bill that stands little chance of passing the Senate.

But House GOP lawmakers said Monday night their strategy was the only way they could secure enough votes to pass another short-term spending bill now—and that they expect the bill to change later in the week.

“Everyone understands that this will probably end up being a ping-pong situation” where a bill is bounced between the House and Senate,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R., Fla.) said Monday night as he left the House GOP’s closed-doors meeting. “And we’ll see where the ball lands.”

The House bill would fund the government through March 23, boost spending for the Defense Department for the full fiscal year, which goes through September, and fund community health centers for two years, lawmakers said.

Adding the extra defense money helped win over conservative House Republicans, whose votes will be needed. Most House Democrats are expected to oppose the short-term spending bill until a fight over immigration has been resolved.

“We’re in good shape to be able to pass it with Republican-only votes,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Monday night.

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.)

Senate Democrats support lifting military spending above limits established in the 2011 debt-limit fight, but they have pushed to secure an equal increase in spending for domestic programs in continuing negotiations over a two-year budget deal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) said earlier Monday that Democrats wouldn’t support a stopgap spending bill that only provides long-term funding for the military.

Sending a bill to the Senate “that just funded defense and cut programs crucial to the middle class, would be barreling headfirst into a dead end,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor, warning that it could “jeopardize the positive discussions going on right now about the budget, immigration, disaster aid and more.”

Few lawmakers expect this week’s spending fight to culminate in a repeat of last month’s three-day partial government shutdown. But the week’s trajectory remains uncertain, largely because congressional leaders appear to be closing in on a long-term budget deal that has eluded them for months.

“Serious, bipartisan negotiations continue on long-term spending levels, along with other important issues,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor Monday. “I am optimistic these talks will bear fruit.”

If congressional leaders do reach an agreement this week to lift both military and domestic spending for two years, that could ease the concerns of many Republicans who want to provide more stable funding to the Defense Department.

And some Senate Democrats, many of whom had hoped to use their leverage on spending bills to secure an agreement on immigration, are starting to view the two issues as separate. As part of the agreement to reopen the government last month, Mr. McConnell agreed to bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor under a process that would be fair and neutral to both parties.

“I’m open to taking a look at a budget deal on its own,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said Monday.

Lawmakers are negotiating in both chambers over how to address the fate of Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at a young age. President Donald Trump in September ended the Obama-era program shielding them from deportation, but gave Congress until March 5 to pass a replacement.

It isn’t clear how many House Democrats would support a spending agreement if Congress hasn’t yet passed any legal protections for the Dreamers, which many have said must be done first.

And conservatives are likely to balk at a budget deal that would significantly raise federal spending levels, though Mr. Meadows said it would depend on the specifics.

“If you plus up the size of government substantially, it certainly loses some conservative support,” he said.

If a two-year budget agreement isn’t reached this week, the Senate could vote to strip out the additional defense funding and return the bill back to the House.

The chamber is expected to adjourn for the House Democrats’ annual policy retreat on Wednesday afternoon, but lawmakers said they would expect to remain in town or return to Washington should they need to vote again on a modified spending bill to avoid another shutdown.

Write to Kristina Peterson at

Britain cannot keep up with Russian military advances, head of Army to warn as he makes case for more funding — The “threat is nothing short of existential” — “The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.”

January 22, 2018

By Ben Farmer
The Telegraph
21 JANUARY 2018 • 10:26PM

Britain is struggling to keep up with Russian military advances, the head of the Army will say on Monday as he makes the case for more funding.

Gen Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff, will say Vladimir Putin’s aggressive modernisation of Russian forces means the Kremlin already has battlefield abilities that the UK would find difficult to match, and that we risk falling further behind.

He will tell the Royal United Service Institute: “The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.”

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, is currently involved in an ongoing Cabinet fight with the Treasury to avoid cuts to the Armed Forces. But the intervention from Sir Nick makes a strong case for  increasing military funding.

It also echoes a recent warning to MPs from a senior former general that cuts had already left the Army 20 years out of date and unable to deal…

Read the rest (Paywall):


UK ‘would struggle to match’ military strength of countries like Russia unless it invests in defence, army chief warns

General Sir Nick Carter says clandestine cyber offensives by foreign powers will affect lives of ordinary British people

By Kim Sengupta

The Independent

Britain risks being vulnerable to enemy action, including cyber attacks, unless adequate resources are urgently devoted to the nation’s defence, the head of the British Army will warn today in a keynote speech.

Pointing  to conventional threats, General Sir Nick Carter will stress that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has built an aggressive military force which this “country would struggle to match”. He will describe how the Kremlin has been ready to use its advanced capabilities in conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

At the same time, the Chief of General Staff  will speak of clandestine cyber offensives from abroad which can affect not only public institutions, but the lives of ordinary people in this country.

General Carter’s address, at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) comes at a time when the Government has come under severe criticism from  politicians and former senior military officers for cutting back on defence spending. At the same time Russia has been blamed for cyber warfare on the West with claims of the US and European elections, as well as the Brexit referendum being targeted.

The Kremlin has showed its military prowess in the battlefield with missile strikes 1500km away in Syria. At the same time, Gen Carter maintains it has kept up constant sabre-rattling in Europe with simulated attacks.

“Our ability to pre-empt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries. State-based competition is now being employed in more novel and increasingly integrated ways and we must be ready to deal with them,” Gen Carter will say.

General Sir Nick Carter says the UK is unprepared for modern warfare such as cyber attacks (PA)

“The threats we face are not thousands of miles away but are now on Europe’s doorstep – we have seen how cyber warfare can be both waged on the battlefield and to disrupt normal people’s lives. We in the UK are not immune from that.”

“We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained.  Speed of decision-making, speed of deployment and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide a realistic deterrence. The time to address these threats is now – we cannot afford to sit back.”

Britain and the West also need to be aware that conventional threats are still very present. “The traditional threat still remains and last year we saw Russia undertake simulated attacks across Northern Europe (from Kaliningrad to Lithuania), we must also look closely at how countries are now being more creative in how they exploit the seams between peace and war.”

Last month the head of the Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach warned that Russia poses a threat to Britain’s internet access and trade because undersea communication cables are vulnerable to the country’s navy. Russia’s “modernised” navy has the ability to disrupt the transcontinental cables and that the UK had to bolster its naval forces to counter the threat.

Defence analysts have pointed out that the UK currently has had no submarine-hunting maritime patrol aircraft since 2010 while ships and submarines which could also protect the cables have fallen too.

The Chief of the Defence Staff gave the speech only days after a think tank said an attack on the cables would deal a “crippling blow” to security and commerce and the “threat is nothing short of existential”.

Trump anti-Muslim video retweet sparks condemnations — “Sure looks racist.” — David Duke (of the KKK) Supoported the President’s Tweets….

November 29, 2017

Reuters and France 24

Video by Philip CROWTHER


Latest update : 2017-11-29

Britain criticised U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday after he retweeted anti-Islam videos originally posted by a leader of a far-right British fringe party who was convicted earlier this month of abusing a Muslim woman.

Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the anti-immigration Britain First group, posted the videos which she said showed a group of people who were Muslims beating a teenage boy to death, battering a boy on crutches and destroying a Christian statue.

Trump’s decision to re-tweet the videos prompted criticism from both sides of the Atlantic, with some British lawmakers demanding an apology and U.S. Muslim groups saying it was incendiary and reckless.

“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” the spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

“Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.”

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the videos and Fransen herself said they had come from various online sources which had been posted on her social media pages.

“I’m delighted,” Fransen, who has 53,000 Twitter followers, told Reuters, saying it showed the U.S. president shared her aim of raising awareness of “issues such as Islam”.

As a candidate, Trump called for “a Muslim ban” and, as president, has issued executive orders banning entry to some citizens of multiple countries, although courts have partially blocked the measures from taking effect.

“Look, I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. “The threat is real and that’s what the president is talking about is the need for national security, the need for military spending, and those are very real things. There’s nothing fake about that.”

Ban on Islam

Britain First is a peripheral political party which wants to end all immigration and bring in a comprehensive ban on Islam, with anyone found to be promoting the religion’s ideology to be deported or imprisoned.

The group, which rarely garners any media attention but attracts a few hundred protesters to its regular street demonstrations, states on its website it is a “loyalist
movement”. Critics say it is simply racist.

Fransen was fined earlier this month after being found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment for shouting abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

Last week, she was charged by the police in Northern Ireland with using threatening, abusive or insulting words in a speech at a rally in Belfast in August.

Along with the group’s leader, she was also charged in September with causing religiously aggravated harassment over the distribution of leaflets and posting online videos during a court trial involving a number of Muslim men accused and later convicted of rape.

Politicians in Britain condemned Trump, with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, describing his tweets as “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society”.

U.S. civil rights and Islamic organisations said the posts amounted to an incitement to violence against U.S. Muslims.

“These are actions one would expect to see on virulent anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States,” Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights organisation, said in a statement.

David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, praised Trump. “He’s condemned for showing us what the fake news media won’t,” Duke wrote on Twitter. “Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”

Fransen, who used similar language to thank Trump, said the president’s re-tweets showed his outrage at her treatment by the media and the authorities.

“The important message here is Donald Trump has been made aware of the persecution and prosecution of a political leader in Britain for giving what has been said by police to be an anti-Islamic speech,” she said.

“He (Trump) stands for free speech and he won’t be deterred by any petty left-leaning journalist in Britain saying he shouldn’t be re-tweeting any individual.”


The 30 Republicans Holding Up Tax Reform

September 14, 2017

The Freedom Caucus threatens to side with Democrats and block the GOP majority.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 13, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

No matter how persuasive President Trump is, it’s unlikely he can round up enough Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate for tax reform. That means Republicans will need to use the Senate’s reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, to pass their plan with 51 votes. But first the House and Senate must pass a budget resolution—and soon.

A budget resolution sets spending levels and authorizes congressional committees to prepare bills fulfilling the blueprint. With the reconciliation plan in mind, this year’s resolution would set the size of the tax reform and then instruct the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to flesh out the provisions.

Gaining agreement on a budget resolution is always tough. No more than a handful of lawmakers from the opposition party ever vote for the majority’s resolution. It helps that Republicans control both the House and Senate, but the GOP must still resolve its internal philosophical disagreements.

House Republicans tend to insist on resolutions that balance the budget within 10 years. This means resolutions that pledge to slow substantially the growth of entitlement spending. Such promises are rarely fulfilled. But putting them in the budget blueprint fuels Democratic ads claiming Republicans will throw grandma off the cliff and deprive poor children of free school lunches. Knowing this, Senate Republicans tend to want resolutions that reach balance after 10 years. Another GOP tension is between defense hawks, who want increased military spending, and deficit hawks, who want all spending restrained or cut.

Then there are nerdy but important technical arguments, starting with how the resolution’s spending baseline is calculated. Beginning with a baseline of “current law” means assuming that a tax break currently authorized for only a year or two will actually expire instead of being reauthorized. But Congress renews some tax breaks annually and probably will keep doing so through the next decade. To account for this, many in the GOP want to calculate the baseline under “current policy.”

It sounds technical, but it quickly becomes political. Democrats demand “current law” because a higher baseline would make tax reform appear to raise the deficit more than it actually would. On the other hand a lower baseline would give tax reform more wiggle room: One GOP budget expert tells me that “current policy” would provide, on paper, $450 billion that could be used to lower rates and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

Dynamic scoring is another geeky fight. A tax reform that generates economic growth will offset some of the government revenue lost from cutting rates. Republicans want their bill evaluated with dynamic scoring because it takes this effect into account and makes reform more attractive. Democrats oppose it for the same reason.

Still, given time and leadership—both on Capitol Hill and from the White House—Republicans could cobble together a budget resolution setting up a strong tax reform, which in turn would juice the economy and redeem the GOP in the midterms.

The biggest obstacle is the House Freedom Caucus. This group of just over 30 Republican congressmen has already slowed up the process by threatening to vote with Democrats against the GOP budget resolution unless they can see and approve, in advance, every major provision of the tax-reform bill. The Freedom Caucus tried in late July to block the House Budget Committee’s passage of a resolution unless the border-adjustment tax was taken off the table—which it then was. Now the Freedom Caucus’s members say they’ll flake on the budget resolution if tax reform includes full, immediate expensing of business investment. But if that’s agreed to, they’ll have more demands.

These lawmakers say they want Congress to operate in “regular order,” with committees grinding away to write legislation instead of leadership handing it down. This is hypocritical bunk. What they want is for their caucus to dictate the details of tax bills to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Their approach is to make demands while threatening to join Nancy Pelosi in opposing the budget resolution unless they get their way.

If the Freedom Caucus acts on its threat, the budget resolution could be voted down, making tax reform impossible. No doubt, following their M.O., the group’s members would then blame the GOP leadership. Even if the resolution passes, the Freedom Caucus’s shenanigans may delay tax reform until 2018. These lawmakers are demonstrating once again that the freedom they most prize is freedom from the responsibility of governing.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition.

Sweden increases military spending and reintroduces conscription as Russia tensions mount

August 21, 2017

Scandinavian nation’s armed forces receive £190 million in additional funding under cross-party agreement to bolster defences against threat posed by neighbouring superpower

By Johan Sennero

The Independent 

Sweden’s centre-left minority government has agreed with two opposition parties to boost military spending in the 2018 budget as the country faces increased tension with Russia in the Baltics.

Sweden’s armed forces will get around 2 billion crowns (£190 million) extra in the 2018 budget and around 6 billion crowns (£575 million) during the 2018-2020 period in the deal between the Social Democrat and Green party coalition and the opposition Moderate and Centre parties, Swedish Radio reported.

Sweden’s military has said it needs the money to rebuild its strength after years of under investment and greater demands on its operational capabilities.

The armed forces called for 9 billion crowns (£862 million) in extra spending during 2017-2020 period.

Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist will hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

The budget for 2018 – an election year – will be presented on 20 September.

Sweden has reintroduced conscription and restored troops to the strategically key Baltic island of Gotland as it looks to bolster its defences.

It has also been drawing closer to Nato, although the government has ruled out becoming a member of the alliance.


Sweden to raise military budget by SEK 6 billion through 2020: Swedish Radio

August 16, 2017

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s center-left minority government said on Wednesday it had agreed with two opposition parties to boost military spending in the 2018 budget as the country faces increased tension with Russia in the Baltics.

Sweden’s armed forces will get around 2 billion crowns ($250 million) extra in the 2018 budget and around 6 billion crowns during the 2018-2020 period in the deal between the Social Democrat and Green party coalition and the opposition Moderate and Centre parties, Swedish Radio reported.

Image result for sweden military, photos

Sweden’s military has said it needs the money to rebuild its strength after years of under investment and greater demands on its operational capabilities.

The armed forces called for 9 billion crowns in extra spending during 2017-2020 period.

Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist will hold a press conference later on Wednesday.

The budget for 2018 – an election year – will be presented on Sept. 20.

Sweden has reintroduced conscription and restored troops to the strategically key Baltic island of Gotland as it looks to bolster its defenses.

It has also been drawing closer to NATO, although the government has ruled out becoming a member of the alliance.

Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Simon Johnson and Toby Chopra

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Europe Reckons With Its Depleted Armies

June 3, 2017

As European NATO members confront rampant materiel shortages, officials acknowledge Trump has a point in calling for more military spending

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Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day military parade, marking the 72nd anniversary of its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in the Chechen capital of Grozny on May 9. Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with the U.S. and NATO’s expanding military infrastructure around the world and has vowed to take countermeasures. Photo credit SAID TSARNAYEV/REUTERS

Updated June 2, 2017 7:22 p.m. ET

Soldiers in Germany’s Light Infantry Battalion 413 near the Baltic Sea coast complained last year that they didn’t have enough sniper rifles or antitank weapons or the right kind of vehicles.

During exercises, they told a parliamentary ombudsman, their unit didn’t have the munitions to simulate battle. Instead, they were told to imagine the bangs.

Across Europe, similar shortfalls riddle land, sea, air and cyber forces following years of defense cutbacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month irked European leaders when he berated them at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s new headquarters for insufficient defense spending and what he called unpaid military bills.

Current and former European officials were quick to point out that NATO members don’t owe dues to the U.S., but they acknowledged Mr. Trump wasn’t wrong: Europe lacks the capabilities to defend itself.

A Leopard tank and Tiger helicopter of the German Armed Forces participating in military exercises in October near Bergen, Germany.
A Leopard tank and Tiger helicopter of the German Armed Forces participating in military exercises in October near Bergen, Germany. PHOTO: ALEXANDER KOERNER/GETTY IMAGES

“Trump won’t have made many friends during his trip to Brussels,” said Richard Shirreff, a retired British four-star general and a former senior NATO commander. “However, Trump is dead right that European nations do not spend enough on defense.”

When Belgium put hundreds of soldiers on street patrols in Brussels after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, it had to request a thousand armor sets from the U.S. Army. Britain’s Royal Navy has 19 destroyers and frigates. In 1982, during the Falklands War, it had 55.

Fighting wars—and preventing them—doesn’t entail just bullets and bombs. Troops and heavy weapons must be moved to the front, requiring fleets of planes, helicopters and trucks. Arsenals must be ready to reload weapons, necessitating stockpiles of munitions. Armies must be ready to defend themselves and to counterattack, which requires specialized systems. In Europe, all are in short supply.

The U.S. has also cut back its troop strength, naval fleet and tank forces from their Cold War highs. But Europe’s offerings are far outmatched by America’s high-end military capabilities, including advanced fighter planes, armed drones, elite special-operation forces and aircraft carriers.

Despite cutbacks in the Pentagon’s budget in recent years, U.S. military spending far exceeds Europe’s, and American conventional forces are generally better trained and equipped than their European counterparts. The U.S. defense budget, $680 billion by NATO calculations, dwarfs the alliance’s European members, which spend a total of $242 billion.

Europeans have tried for decades to more efficiently build military hardware and organize troops. That effort is littered with failures, delays and compromises. Today European allies spend roughly half as much as the U.S. on defense yet have less than one-sixth of its combat power, European officials acknowledge.

The U.S. has long chastised Europeans on their inadequate military. After the 2011 bombing campaign in Libya, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized allies for not having enough smart bombs to conduct the effort. NATO countries had to rely on U.S. targeting experts and refueling planes and even borrowed American munitions.

The real wake-up call, allied officials say, was Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, followed by Moscow’s intervention in Syria. Both displayed new Russian tactics and weaponry. Suddenly long-ignored weapons of the Cold War became relevant again.

“The Russian ground forces have under way the biggest modernization program they have undertaken in the last 50 years,” said Christopher Foss, editor of Jane’s Armored Fighting Vehicles. “Their new vehicles are a step-change in capability on what NATO has got.”

For decades, NATO’s nuclear forces kept the peace, offsetting any imbalance in conventional forces. Russia wouldn’t risk annihilating the planet by invading a NATO country, the thinking went. But in view of the risks of nuclear war, the West would only consider pushing the button against an all-out attack. A a so-called hybrid scenario like Crimea, involving a handful of unidentified soldiers sneaking across a border to foment unrest, is impervious to nuclear deterrence.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivering a speech at last month’s NATO summit in Brussels as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looks on.
U.S. President Donald Trump delivering a speech at last month’s NATO summit in Brussels as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg looks on. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

That is where conventional weapons fit in. The best way to prevent Moscow from stirring up trouble on NATO’s borders has been to ensure the world knew NATO had the firepower to win any kind of conflict, U.S. and allied officials say.

NATO’s challenges in achieving such deterrence today are exemplified in the decline in stocks of tanks.

During the Cold War, the Netherlands had 445 battle tanks. In 2015, the country put up for sale its last 60 tanks, along with its transport helicopters and many of its naval minesweepers. Instead, the Dutch sent soldiers to operate German tanks.

But Germany was also cutting tank numbers, from a Cold War peak of 2,125 Leopard 2 battle tanks to a force as of last fall of only 244, of which just over half were ready for action. The reduction has meant units sometimes have to borrow tanks from sister units for training with just hours’ notice, according to a parliamentary official.

A defense ministry spokeswoman said military units do sometimes need to borrow equipment from other units to carry out exercises—a problem, she said, that informed a recent government decision to invest more in such equipment.

The dearth extends beyond tanks. Last year, only around nine of Germany’s 48 NH-90 transport helicopters and 40 of its 123 Eurofighter jets were usable at any given time.

Hans-Peter Bartels, the German parliament’s armed forces commissioner who functions as a military ombudsman, said in his annual report this year that efforts to improve equipment and replenish munitions stores were taking too long. At Light Infantry Battalion 413 the battalion near the Baltic Sea, he said, materiel shortfalls led to “discontent and frustration” among the troops.

A German army spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the complaints reported to Mr. Bartels were accurate. She said the battalion currently has the equipment and munitions it needs to train properly and carry out its duties.

Stories of shortages abound in Europe. France recently sent only five tanks and 300 troops to a new NATO force in the Baltic states partly because French deployments in Africa, Syria and the streets of Paris have overtaxed its military, according to allied officials.

Britain’s storied Royal Navy is without a single aircraft carrier while it awaits the delivery of two carriers. When the HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail in 2021, it may initially carry U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighter planes while Britain builds up its own fleet. The U.K. has also placed its submarine-hunting crews with allies because it lacks planes and awaits new surveillance aircraft.

Britain and France—Europe’s biggest defense spenders—and Germany, its biggest economy, have all pledged to rebuild their militaries. In 2016, non-U.S. NATO military spending ticked up by $10 billion, an increase of 3.8% over 2015 outlays.

Officials say a first sign that Mr. Trump has had an impact may come later this month when NATO releases preliminary estimates for 2017 European defense budgets.

NATO’s goal that member countries spend 2% of economic output on defense is formulated as a loose target meant to be reached by 2024. But Washington increasingly treats it as a requirement. Days after the NATO meeting, Mr. Trump tweeted: “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

German officials acknowledge their force has become hollow and vow to rebuild it—a decision they stress was made before Mr. Trump’s election. Chancellor Angela Merkel  pushed through parliament a military budget increase of 8% for this year, to €37 billion ($42 billion). According to the German government, that represents 1.2% of the country’s gross domestic product. Ms. Merkel says she is committed to NATO’s 2% goal.

Better defense spending, not just more defense spending, is what is required

—Douglas Barrie of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

German and U.S. critics say changes are too slow. The German defense ministry announced in 2015 it would rebuild its tank force, but the tanks haven’t arrived, to the frustration of U.S. military planners. The €760-million deal to refurbish 104 tanks was signed only last month. The two-year gap was due to the technical complexity of the refurbishment and procurement process, the German defense ministry spokeswoman said.

How money gets spent is another factor. “Better defense spending, not just more defense spending, is what is required,” said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Transportation remains the most critical need, U.S. and NATO officials say. The U.S. has been urging allies to extend rail lines to training bases, since its transport trailers can’t legally carry tanks on European roads due to weight limits. The U.S. also wants Europeans to buy their own tank transporters.

Cargo planes and helicopters are also a big capability gap, officials say. If tensions with Russia flare on NATO’s borders, war plans call for reinforcements of front lines with NATO rapid-reaction forces. But deploying those forces quickly would likely depend on American equipment.

NATO Warship HMS Duncan docking in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
NATO Warship HMS Duncan docking in Belfast, Northern Ireland. PHOTO: MARK WINTER/CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

NATO says members are beginning to turn a corner. Later this month, the alliance will approve a new defense plan that boosts heavy equipment, like tanks, but also calls for additional surveillance planes, air refueling tankers and strategic airlift, according to a senior NATO official.

In the short term, the U.S. is filling the gap in European defenses. Last month, the U.S. announced plans for $4.8 billion in new military spending in Europe, an increase of $1.4 billion over last year.

In Germany, military spending has become an issue in September general elections. The main party challenging Ms. Merkel is casting her support for higher military spending as kowtowing to Mr. Trump, whom many German voters dislike.

Ms. Merkel’s chief electoral rival, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, said Thursday he would officially abandon the 2% goal if elected. “I don’t think this spiraling arms buildup makes sense,” he said.

At last month’s NATO summit where Mr. Trump lambasted Europeans, several leaders said they would publicly advocate higher military spending for the sake of their own national security, not American demands. But they also privately told Mr. Trump they agreed with him, according to diplomats.

“To an extent,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte after the meeting, “he has a point.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at, Anton Troianovski at and Robert Wall at

Appeared in the June 3, 2017, print edition as ‘Europe Reckons With Its Depleted Armies.’

Russia is now world’s third largest spender on military

April 27, 2017

95 percent of the soldiers with the Northern Fleet are now on professional contracts, following a year when Russia increased defense spendings by 5.4%.

By Thomas Nilsen
The Independent Barents Observer

Northern Fleet soldiers on march in Nikel near Russia’s border to Norway in the north. Photo: Atle Staalesen

It is the annual comprehensive update by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that again places Russia among the top three nations on military spendings.

Russia’s defense budget increased to $69,2 billion in 2016. The country’s defense budget has grown by 87% over the last 10 years and now counts for 4,1% of the global spendings on arms. Only China and United Arabic Emirates had a larger growth since 2007, with 118% and 123% respectively.

The Russian military sector now counts for 5,3% of the country’s GDP, the highest proportion since Russia became an independent state 25 years ago.

The five biggest arms spenders in 2016 were USA, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and India.

United States alone spends $200 billion more on its military than the four next on the list combined. Although 4,8% decrease in defense spendings from 2015, the United States still spent $611 billion on weapons and soldiers last year. That is more than one third of the total global military spendings.

SIPRI underscores that all 28 NATO countries’ military spending was still over 12 times more than Russia in 2016.

Economy in trouble

SIPRI reports that as a result of an unexpected increase in Russia’s military expenditure late in 2016 and large cuts to Saudi Arabia’s military budget, Russia climbed to the position of the third largest spender.

The sharp increase comes at a time when the Russian economy is in serious trouble due to low oil and gas prices and the economic sanctions imposed since 2014.

«It was originally expected and planned that the Russian Government would reduce its spending, including military spending. However, late in 2016 actual spending was pushed substantially higher by a decision to make a one-off payment of roughly $11,8 billion in government debt to Russian arm producers,» the SIPRI report reads.

Without this debt repayment, Russia’s military spending would have decreased by 12%.

Northern Fleet

Much of the costs are related to new-buildings of naval vessels, including submarines for northern waters.

Talking about the Northern Fleet last week, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said 95% of all naval soldiers under command of the fleet now serve on contracts, the Defense Ministry’s report from the meeting reads.

Crews on Russian submarines have been out at sea on many more voyages this winter than ever before over the last 25 years. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Shoygu praised the successful voyage of the combat group from the Northern Fleet to Syria this winter, lead by aircraft carrier «Admiral Kuznetsov» and followed by the voyage of the anti-submarine warship «Severomorsk» to ports in Africa. The Northern Fleet last year also had the first combat mission with the new nuclear powered submarine «Severodvinsk», one of the new strategic submarines of the Borei-class made a patrol under the Arctic ice-cap and the frigate «Admiral Gorshkov» successfully test-fired Calibr and Onyx cruise missiles.

Tillerson Clashes With NATO Allies Over Military Spending — Our nations “are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us.”

March 31, 2017

German foreign minister said U.S. demands on military spending were ‘totally unrealistic’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepare for a group photo of 28 foreign ministers a conference of foreign ministers on Friday. The meeting in Brussels is Tillerson’s first visit to NATO headquarters as secretary of state. Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. couldn’t “maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson squared off against his German counterpart on Friday as the Trump administration stepped up its pressure on allies to raise their military spending.

Mr. Tillerson said he wants member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to agree at their summit in May to increase such spending by the end of the year or to make concrete plans to reach2% of gross domestic product by 2024—a target the Germans have contested.

As part of that process, Mr. Tillerson suggested that the U.S. would want to see annual milestones that would ensure the defense investment pledgeis implemented by the 2024 deadline.

“As President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures,” Mr. Tillerson said at a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel acknowledged Germany should spend more but said demands for spending 2% of GDP were “totally unrealistic.” To meet the U.S. target, he said, Germany would have to increase spending by some €35 billion ($37 billion).

Mr. Gabriel declined to answer questions about whether Germany intended to develop the kind of spending plans pushed by the U.S.

Raising German military spending—now at about 1.2% of GDP—has long been seen by the U.S. as key to Europe shouldering more of its own defense.

Mr. Gabriel, a member of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, has stepped up his criticism of further spending increases as September elections near, arguing that a strong defense isn’t enough to ensure security.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the ruling Christian Democrats, has been more supportive of increased military spending than the SPD, who is a junior partner in her governing coalition.

After President Donald Trump’s meeting with Ms. Merkel earlier this month, he made waves in Berlin by tweeting that “Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO,” a charge German officials have dismissed.

Mr. Trump promised in his first budget proposal to boost U.S. military spending by $20 billion to “rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has embraced the push by the U.S. and said Europe must raise its spending and improve its military capabilities.

“Increased military spending isn’t about pleasing the United States. It is about investing more in European security because it is important to Europe,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a visit to London where he met with his British counterpart, underlined the U.S. stance, and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon called on allies to “raise their game.”

An official at the NATO meeting said there was “a reasonable consensus” for the call, with a number of allies detailing their plans. But officials acknowledged reaching agreement on the exact language of the spending plans will be a challenge, given Germany’s concerns.

Some allied officials predicted the alliance would agree on spending plans, but only after intense negotiation over language that could give countries a degree of flexibility.

Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment, including by adding troops in Eastern Europe this year as part of a force meant to deter Russia.

In London, Mr. Mattis said Russian aggression and the country’s alleged interference in foreign elections and in Afghanistan are matters of common concern between the U.S. and the U.K. Mr. Mattis said the West was confronting a range of challenges, from Iran’s alleged sponsorship of international terrorism to missile tests by North Korea.

“Our two nations are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us,” Mr. Mattis said. “They do not understand: We don’t scare.”

On Russia, Mr. Mattis accused Moscow of violations of international law, citing its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in foreign elections. He also said the U.S. has observed “Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban” in Afghanistan, though he wasn’t specific.

Mr. Fallon said Britain, the U.S. and other allies “need to be extremely watchful now of this persistent pattern of Russian interference.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at and Jason Douglas at