Seven countries, from Asia to Africa, are building up their military forces to fill what they see as a vacuum created by declining U. S. influence.
A report from the United Kingdom-based intelligence think tank Stratrisks says China, Japan, India, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and even Algeria are increasing military spending to counter worldwide and regional threats.
The Stratrisks report says China has improved its capabilities. Reuters reports that the Chinese military budget is approaching $200 billion, the second largest military budget in the world behind the U.S.
Supporting by a growing economy and military budget, the People’s Liberation Army has bolstered its naval power with a new aircraft carrier, drones, submarines, and cutting-edge stealth technology, Reuters aid. The PLA also has developed an active cyberwarfare capability.
Heritage Foundation Foreign Policy analyst Steven Bucci said that although China has the largest military, it’s leaders still are wary of their surroundings.
“China is concerned about its neighbors, but also in ‘returning’ to its rightful status as the Middle Kingdom (center of the world), this has military and economic components,” Bucci said.
The second nation on the list, Japan, will increase its defense budget for the first time in 11 years. Bloomberg reports Japan’s military budget will rise to over $51 billion.
WND reported in February that Japan was in the process of rearming largely because of the threat posed by China.
Japan is getting bolder regarding its presence in the Pacific by teaming up with allies in the region to show a new assertiveness against China. Meanwhile, new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to enlarge the country’s military, contrary to its pacifist constitution, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
He’s already said he intends to consider constitutional revisions, enhance Japan’s security alliance with the U.S. and create what he calls a “democratic security diamond,” or alliance, with friendly Indo-Pacific countries that similarly are concerned about China’s encroachment in the East and South China Seas.
Bucci believes Japan feels isolated because of a U. S. drawdown.
“Japan is feeling that the U.S. is no longer a good guarantor of their physical safety, so they need the means to protect themselves,” Bucci said.
India is also in the Stratrisks report. The Wall Street Journal reports India’s defense spending will increase to over $37 billion for their new fiscal year, which starts in April.
A former CIA station chief who asked not to be identified for security reasons said India has legitimate concerns, considering its closest neighbors.
“China is a friend of Pakistan and is therefore a natural enemy of India,” the former station chief said.
The chief added that China’s military is a major threat to most of Asia. For this reason alone, he says that India’s rearmament is justified.
“For their hegemonic interests, they need a big military. And everyone else needs to arm in self-defense,” he said.
Two of the other nations on the Stratrisks report are Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Bucci said the Saudis are in a very dangerous neighborhood.
“The Saudis are worried about Iran, almost as much as Israel is. India also worries about Pakistan, which they see as way more unstable than China,” Bucci said.
Scott Stewart, vice president for analysis for the geostrategy intelligence think tank Stratfor, said Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s concerns are regional.
“Iraq is attempting to rebuild its military, which was shattered by the U.S. invasion in 2003. Saudi Arabia fears Iran as well as the return of a strong Iraq on its border,” Stewart said.
The former station chief said Iraq aims to be a major regional player.
“Iraq is rebuilding to become a regional superpower … either against Iran (or if they ally) against Saudis/Egyptians,” the former station chief said. “The Saudis have to defend against Iran as are most of the Gulf States who are arming up.”
The North African nation of Algeria is also on the Stratrisks list, and the Algerian Defense Ministry has asked for over $10 billion for fiscal 2013.
Stratrisks says high energy prices give Algeria the revenues to back a military buildup, which includes hardware coming from Russia.
Bucci and the former station chief say Algeria is one of the remaining stable nations in North Africa. Algeria’s decision to rearm is prompted by a surge in activity by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, he said.
“Algeria is probably looking to control their internal/nearby problems (AQ is all over the place),” Bucci said.
Stewart agrees that Algeria is beset by AQIM.
“Algeria is all about the AQIM threat plus the additional threat posed by all the weapons flowing out of Libya. They need to protect their energy infrastructure,” Stewart said.
The station chief said Algeria is fighting for its survival.
“Algeria (and Morocco) are the last stable nations in North Africa with the rest either fallen, like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida, or are slowly falling into their grasp,” he said.
The final nation on the list is Russia. The Russian newspaper Ria Novosti reports Russia will increase defense spending to $97 billion by 2015.
Bucci said Russia’s interest is in reemerging as a military power.
“Russia is really trying to regain its super power status, and have hegemony in their ‘near abroad,’ the former Soviet territory,” he said.
Stewart said Russia wants to be a major player in world affairs.
“Their concerns are to fight terrorism, but they don’t want a unipolar world, where the United States dictates what happens around the globe,” Stewart said.
However, the former station chief said Russia’s money is not responding to threats but for bringing its military up to date.
“Russia is mostly retooling and modernizing. All of its weaponry is 50 years out of date. However, it won’t arm up to the size of the Soviet Union and can’t afford to do that,” he said.