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10.2: Comparative Military Power

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    smart bombs), training, communications, satellite and communications intelligence, and power projection, with bases in over 100 countries around the world. The U.S. spends as the next 10 countries combined. The U.S. is also the only country with multiple large aircraft carriers and the logistical capability to send large forces anywhere in the world. (China is just starting to test its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished ship from Ukraine. Russia has one that doesn’t work very well.) The U.S. also has by far the largest and most advanced air force and navy, and has more precision-guided bombs. The U.S. has also maintained an edge because of superior electronic warfare and satellite capabilities, but is being challenged in this domain by China and Russia. In addition, constant, realistic training and the U.S. Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) leadership system, which gives experienced Army sergeants and Navy petty officers flexibility and responsibility, are a big advantage over the usual rigid officer-centric top-down systems with little training that exists in most countries.

    Britain and France have small but well-trained, well-equipped and well-led militaries that can project power overseas. (Because of budget problems, they have announced that their militaries are going to cooperate more closely.) Canada and Australia also have small, well-trained, well-equipped militaries. The French easily handled Ivory Coast rebels and Australia quickly calmed down the Solomon Islands and East Timor. France is also carrying out counterinsurgency operations in its former colony of Mali.

    Russia’s conventional military forces greatly declined in size after the end of the Cold War, but they are still strong enough to crush weak neighbors such as Georgia and Ukraine. Putin has been reforming the military, developing new weapons such as a hypersonic missile, focusing on special forces such as those he used in Ukraine, and helping client state Syria with planes, bombs and troops. In the last few years, Russian military, security and infowar advisors and government-connected mercenaries have also been working in Libya, the Central African Republic, Mozambique and other countries. Russia cannot compete with Chinese money, but it made many deals for arms sales, advisors and trade at its 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.

    China has a large army, has increased its military budget to #2 in the word, is modernizing its military by buying equipment from Russia and Europe, and is developing its own weapons to counter U.S. power asymmetrically (anti-ship missiles, small missile boats, stealth fighters, subs, drones, etc.). It has set up bases on islands in the South China Sea, and is developing bases (“A String of Pearls”) around the Indian Ocean surrounding India in Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Djibouti. China is also selling cheap but ‘good enough’ military equipment all over Africa and Asia.

    China is also increasing its reach in the Western Hemisphere. It has instituted many trade, port and other infrastructure deals, carried out visits by ships such as the hospital vessel Peace Ark, donated military equipment to Latin American and Caribbean countries, trained military and security personnel, bought port companies on both sides of the Panama Canal and is building a bridge over the Canal. When accepting military equipment from China, then-President of Bolivia Evo Morales said, “The United States used to donate to the Bolivian Armed Forces. The big difference between Chinese and U.S. donations is that the U.S. donated under conditions…which included the privatization or giving away of our natural resources to transnational companies, [while] the People’s Republic of China donates without conditions, without blackmailing.”

    With nearby Chinese and North Korean threats growing, Japan is rebuilding its military after depending on the U.S. for decades. India has nukes and a large and modern military, but not the capability to project power beyond South Asia. Some countries have small regular armies but large reserve forces, such as Switzerland, Sweden and Israel (by far the strongest military in the Middle East).

    This page titled 10.2: Comparative Military Power is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lawrence Meacham.

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