President Trump has recently announced plans to increase the USA’s defence spending to $654 billion; an increase of around ten percent from the previous year’s spending. These plans are by no means final and the proposed spending plan must still go to Congress for approval, potentially seeing amendments before it is accepted. However the impact of these plans, if they are accepted, must be considered.
The USA’s defence spending over the last 20 years has more than doubled, reaching a high of $720 billion in 2010. Although it did then decline slightly, it was still nearly $600 billion at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, and his office was also projecting an increase for the next year’s budget, although still some $19 billion less than Trump is. In the USA, at least, this kind of spending is not extraordinary, and indeed some are calling for even greater spending, such as former presidential candidate Senator John McCain.
This increase in spending could be viewed as sensible, with the increased aggression from China and Russia, civil war in Syria and Iraq, nuclear weapons tests in North Korea, and the heightened tension in global politics at the moment with Brexit and the rise of far-right nationalists; it may well be seen as time for the USA to be strengthening their military forces. Additionally, the changing nature of warfare means that the USA does need to adapt large parts of it’s military to be more effective in the modern age, and keep up with the advances of China and Russia. Of course, the wisdom of such an aggressive tactic of “peace through strength” is questionable, but it does not mark any great departure from traditional Republican policy.
With President Trump at the helm, this increase could of course mean a lot more than it would have under Obama. Trump’s alleged links to Russia, diplomatic insults, and disregard for human rights could be signs of troubling times ahead. Trump intends to fund this increase with cuts to foreign aid spending, a move that could easily create more problems for the USA, eroding their soft power. Although this spending increase may just be a continuation of prior plans, it could also be the start of a new aggressive and dangerous foreign policy.