Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushes the West to re-arm (The Economist – March 28, 2022)

BY INVADING UKRAINE, Vladimir Putin has revitalised the world’s democracies and strengthened NATO’s resolve, President Joe Biden told an audience in Warsaw on March 26th. Two days later he submitted a budget to Congress that included $813bn in defence spending.

He called it “one of the largest investments in our national security in history”. Among other things, Mr Biden said, it was intended “to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine”. In Europe, meanwhile, many NATO allies are beefing up their forces even faster. But will the extra money for weapons be spent effectively?

Begin with America’s gargantuan defence budget, the largest in the world, accounting for about 40% of global military expenditures. The Biden administration’s numbers may not quite match its rhetoric. The additional $17bn above the $796bn expected spending this year represents a 2% increase. That is lower than the budget’s projected rate of inflation of 2.5%, which some economists think is anyhow optimistic given the pace of price rises so far this year.

The administration prefers to highlight the 4% increase in the base budget for the Department of Defence, which excludes such things as spending on nuclear warheads by the Department of Energy, and supplemental budgets, eg, to help Ukraine and resettle Afghans who worked with America.

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