A New Global Arms Race - part 2

by Richard Palmer
(United States)

Over the summer the Pentagon disclosed that Saudi Arabia wants to spend $5.5 billion on an advanced patriot missile launcher. “If the sale happens, it’ll allow Saudi Arabia to make the skies above the Persian Gulf an exceedingly deadly place to be,” reported the military blog War Is Boring.

Saudi Arabia was forced to announce cuts to spending last month because of low oil prices. But even though defense spending is fully one third of its budget, it is not cutting that. Economic realities may still curb some of the Saudis’ ambitions, but they are placing a higher priority than ever on the military.

All of these figures refer only to conventional military spending; they do not include nuclear weapons. As nations throughout the region are well aware, the Iran deal will allow Iran to get a bomb. Tehran can break the deal and rush for one now, or stick to the deal and get one legally in just a few years. This raises the specter of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Saudis’ desire for a bomb of their own has been well documented. The Sunday Times wrote in May:

“We know this stuff is available to them off the shelf,” the U.S. intelligence official said. Asked whether the Saudis had decided to become a nuclear power, the official responded: “That has to be the assumption.”

Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to London and Washington, declared bluntly last month: “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”

This trend is much harder to get concrete, reliable information on. The Saudis won’t be publishing regular updates on their progress toward a bomb. But in June they did sign an agreement with Russia for peaceful nuclear power.

Related to this region is Africa, with North Africa closely connected to events in the Middle East. Here, in 2014, military spending was up 6 percent—with Algeria and Angola leading that increase.


In Asia, military spending has gone through some major shifts in the past few decades. Since 2005, it has risen 62 percent. From 2013 to 2014, it rose 5 percent.

At the start of 2014, consulting firm McKinsey & Company published a report called “Southeast Asia: The Next Growth Opportunity in Defense.” It said:

A profound shift in economic power is reshaping the global landscape of defense spending. For the first time in more than two centuries—since the start of the Industrial Revolution—the majority of the world’s economic growth took place in the developing world, driven in large part by China, India and other emerging economies.

Emerging markets are now spending more on defense than ever before. Countries such as China, Brazil and India have doubled or even tripled their defense spending during the past two decades. Southeast Asia—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—is now among the top defense spenders globally. These countries have collectively doubled their military spending between 1992 and 2012.

China is the world’s second-largest military spender. In 2014, it is estimated to have spent $216 billion on its military, an increase of about 10 percent over previous years.

There are a couple of different trends here. As the McKinsey report notes, this trend has been going back decades. But there is also the much more recent trend that comes from China and its island grabbing and island building in the South China Sea.

In May of this year, CNBC published an article called “Asia Defense Spending: New Arms Race in South China Sea.” It said, “The Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan are beefing up their military in the face of increasingly bold incursions in the region by China. But most of that spending is not going to weapons makers in the United States.”

The statistics back up CNBC’s claims.

Over the next year, Asia’s major powers are planning bigger defense increases. China is planning to increase its spending by 10 percent. India is planning an 11 percent jump. At the start of this year, Japan approved its largest ever defense budget, at around $42 billion—the third straight year of increase. IHS Jane’s forecasts that the Philippines will double its spending by 2021.

Why Now?

This is the picture we get of our world today. An Eastern European arms race. A Middle Eastern arms race. An Asian arms race.

But all this raises an important question: Why? Why now? Why is Saudi Arabia buying up arms out of fear of Iran at exactly the same time that Poland is buying up arms out of fear of Russia? At first glance, all these arms races are unconnected.

The answer to this question emerges as we consider the one major power not looked at so far: the United States.

Here is the big exception to the increased spending trend. In 2014, America cut its spending by 6.5 percent. From 2010 to 2014, America’s defense spending fell 20 percent. By the end of this year, it is expected to have fallen even further.

This is the common cause in the jump in arms spending everywhere else. America is retreating. Its allies don’t trust it. More aggressive nations around the world are becoming emboldened.

Take Europe. Russia has been acting aggressively for some time. In 2008 it invaded Georgia, but this invasion didn’t prompt the same explosion in defense spending from other nations. Eastern Europe was still scared, but instead of spending more, its nations turned to America for help. They asked America to station missiles on their territory. These permanent bases would help guarantee that America would come to their aid if they were attacked.

But America has backed away from those missile bases. It has consistently refused to stand up to Russia. Russia got the message that America won’t stop it. So it is spending more and becoming more aggressive. Europe got the message that it can’t depend on America. So after Russia invaded Ukraine, European nations are not trusting in America for help; they are looking to themselves.

It’s the same story in the Middle East. America has never done enough to prevent Iran from getting the bomb; but by signing the nuclear deal, it essentially made a public declaration that it would never stand up to Iran. Thus, Iran has become more aggressive, and Saudi Arabia and other states have concluded that they can’t trust America.

The story line is also true in Asia. The Chinese have watched how America dealt with Russia and with Iran and concluded that if they act aggressively, America won’t stand up to them. And the other Asian nations are concluding that they can’t rely on America.

These three global arms races and the instability they are bringing are all directly caused by America’s retreat from the world.

Historically, the rise of Britain and America led to a lengthy era of relative peace. That era, however, is coming to an end. To understand why, read our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy by Herbert W. Armstrong

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