As the United States and many of its allies decrease defense spending, America’s adversaries are doing the opposite.
It’s still unclear whether Washington will miss a March 1 deadline for avoiding sweeping automatic military cuts. But regardless, Russia is set to surpass U.S. defense spending — when looked at as a percentage of GDP — in just two years. By the same measure, China is slated to surpass the U.S. in 2035.
Even so, the United States still towers over other countries in GDP. The U.S. GDP was $15 quadrillion in 2011, according to the World Bank, compared to Russia’s $1.9 quadrillion and China’s $7.3 quadrillion.
“You’ve seen double-digit increases in Chinese defense spending for more than 15 years now,” said Jim Thomas, with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “And that really should not only give pause to the United States, but it really should be a source of concern for the countries in the region as well.”
In the latest example of cutbacks in the face of more drastic cuts starting next month, the USS Truman — which was slated to deploy Friday to the Persian Gulf — had its deployment canceled this week. The Navy announced that for the first time in two years it cannot afford to have more than one aircraft carrier in the Gulf.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned it will get worse if Congress doesn’t find a solution before March 1.
“Instead of being a first-rate power in the world, we’d turn into a second-rate power. That would be the result of sequester,” Panetta said. Sequester is the name for the automatic cuts first passed into law in the summer of 2011 as part of the debt-ceiling deal.