Biggest jump in world defense spending in 10 years

China’s new breed of hypersonic missiles, which were on display in a military parade in Beijing last October, are worrying Western officials. (AFP)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Biggest jump in world defense spending in 10 years

  • US increased spending to $684.6 billion, up 6.6 percent from the previous budget
  • China's defense budget rose to $181.1 billion, up also by about 6.6 percent

MUNICH: Global spending on defense rose by 4 percent in 2019, the largest growth in 10 years, led by big increases in the US and China, a study said Friday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said the rise was fueled by growing rivalries between big powers, new military technologies and rumbling conflicts from Ukraine to Libya.

Beijing’s military modernization program — which includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles — is alarming Washington and helping drive US defense spending, the IISS said.

Its annual “Military Balance” report said the increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 — $53.4 billion — was almost as big as Britain’s entire defense budget.

“Spending rose as economies recovered from the effects of the financial crisis, but increases have also been driven by sharpening threat perceptions,” IISS chief John Chipman said, launching the report at the Munich Security Conference.

Both the US and China increased spending by 6.6 percent, the report said, to $684.6 billion and $181.1 billion respectively.

FASTFACTS

Increase alone in US spending from 2018 to 2019 was $53.4 billion, almost as big as Britain’s entire defense budget

China’s military modernization program includes developing new hard-to-detect hypersonic missiles

Russia has already announced the entry into service of its own hypersonic missile system

Europe — driven by ongoing concerns about Russia — stepped up spending by 4.2 percent, but this only brought the continent’s defense budget back to 2008 levels, before the global financial crisis brought cuts.

European NATO members have been seeking to increase spending to placate President Donald Trump, who has accused them of freeloading on the US.

The mercurial president’s anger over spending has fueled concern about his commitment to the transatlantic alliance, culminating in an explosive 2018 summit where he launched a blistering public attack on Germany.

Giving the opening address at the annual security gathering, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that Trump’s “America First” strategy had shaken up the international order and fueled insecurity.

“We are witnessing today an increasingly destructive momentum in global politics,” Steinmeier said. “Every year we are getting further and further away from our goal of creating a more peaceful world through international cooperation.”

Key elements of the international order that developed after the Second World War have come under increasing challenge.

The collapse last year of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and the doubts surrounding the renewal of the New START arms reduction treaty, which expires in 2021, have contributed to the mood of instability, the IISS report said.

China’s program of military modernization — described by the IISS as “striking for its scale, speed and ambition” — has unsettled Washington and its allies.

In October, Beijing showed off its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle — designed to deliver warheads at huge speeds so as to avoid interception.

Russia, pursuing its own modernization project, has already announced the entry into service of its own hypersonic missile system.

Hypersonic missiles are worrying Western officials, because they are so fast and so manoeuvrable that they make existing defense systems useless and give almost no warning of attack.

A senior NATO official warned that in a hypersonic missile strike, it may not even be clear what the target is “until there’s a boom on the ground.”

Elsewhere, spending in Asia is booming as the continent’s economic success has allowed countries to invest more in their militaries.

Decoder

Hypersonic missiles

These missiles can travel across the world faster than Mach 5, meaning five times the speed of sound, or 6,174 kph, making them hard to track compared to traditional missiles. Hypersonic missiles combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the maneuvering capabilities of cruise missiles and can deliver conventional or nuclear payloads anywhere across the planet in just a few minutes.

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Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

  • Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown
  • Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science

WASHINGTON: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen Wednesday despite unprecedented lockdowns, as the head of the United Nations sounded the alarm on what he said was humanity’s worst crisis since World War II.
The warning came as Donald Trump told Americans to brace for a “very painful” few weeks after the United States registered its deadliest 24 hours of the crisis.
Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of a disease that has now infected more than 850,000 people.
Well over 40,000 are known to have died, half of them in Italy and Spain, but the death toll continues to rise with new records being logged daily in the US.
“This is going to be a very painful — a very, very painful — two weeks,” Trump said, describing the pandemic as “a plague.”
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”
America’s outbreak has mushroomed rapidly. There are now around 190,000 known cases — a figure that has doubled in just five days.
On Tuesday, a record 865 people died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, taking the national toll so far to more than 4,000.
Members of Trump’s coronavirus task force said the country should be ready for between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the coming months.
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
America’s under-pressure health system is being supplemented by field hospitals sprouting up all over New York, including a tented camp in Central Park, a hospital ship and converted convention centers.
But even with the extended capacity, doctors say they are still having to make painful choices.
“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Shamit Patel of the Beth Israel hospital said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”
The extraordinary economic and political upheaval spurred by the virus presents a real danger to the relative peace the world has seen over the last few decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.
The “disease ... represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
“The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” he said.
In virtual talks Tuesday, finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 major economies pledged to address the debt burden of low-income countries and deliver aid to emerging markets.
Last week G20 leaders said they were injecting $5 trillion into the global economy to head off a feared deep recession.
In the European Union, however, battle lines have been drawn over the terms of a rescue plan.
Worst-hit Italy and Spain are leading a push for a shared debt instrument — dubbed “coronabonds.”
But talk of shared debt is a red line for Germany and other northern countries, threatening to divide the bloc.
Deaths shot up again across Europe. While there are hopeful signs that the spread of infections is slowing in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, which both reported more than 800 new deaths Tuesday.
France recorded a one-day record of 499 dead while Britain reported 381 coronavirus deaths, including that of a previously healthy 13-year-old.
That came after a 12-year-old Belgian girl succumbed to an illness that is serious chiefly for older, frailer people with pre-existing health conditions.
Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science.
Researchers said China’s decision to shutter Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented three-quarters of a million new cases by delaying the spread of the virus.
“Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan” by mid-February, said Oxford University’s Christopher Dye.