Leadership: Russia and China Have a Plan

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February 28, 2008: Russia is increasing defense spending 20 percent this year, to $40 billion, for a force of about 1.1 million troops. The plan is to increase defense spending to $45 billion by 2010. The U.S. is spending about $500 billion a year (for 1.5 million troops). About half the Russian budget will go to buying weapons and equipment to replace decaying Cold War era stuff. Most of the rest goes to maintaining the aging, Cold War era tanks, warplanes and ships that survived the 1990s (when little maintenance was done). But many in the government caution that Russian technology is not yet competitive with the West, and won't be until the economy develops the entrepreneurs and skilled workforce found in the West. But Russia is nationalizing more of the economy, and sliding back into the Soviet "control from the center" habits. Russian weapons are still considered second rate, and it's the nuclear arsenal that provides Russia with whatever military power it really has.

Meanwhile, China spent $45 billion on defense last year (for a force of two million troops), and will probably spend close to $55 billion this year. Unlike Russia and the U.S., which try to maintain modern, high tech forces, across the board, about 80 percent of Chinese forces are pretty, well, cheap and low tech. That means aircraft, tanks and ships that are either old, or built using old technology. Still, that's a lot of guys with guns, plus several hundred thousand of them armed with the latest implements of destruction. Long term, China strives to build a huge, world class, industrial base, that will provide the tax income, and technology, that will make it the premier military power on the planet.

 


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