United States Adopts a Budget for Global Containment

The size of the US military budget for the next year has neither raised any questions, nor drawn any objections on the part of Congress. Moreover, the majority in Congress supports further increases in military spending, pointing to the challenges coming from Russia and China.

The contents of America’s 2019 defense budget approved by Congress on August 2, 2018 as well as the peculiarities of its discussion and adoption reveal new evidence of at least four points. First, the course taken by Trump in order to contain Russia and China is a long-term trend of the American policy, which is likely to be in place and even strengthen after he leaves the White House. Second, the perception of Moscow and Beijing as the United States’ rivals remains one of the few issues of consensus for the political elite, administration, and bureaucracy in Washington.

Third, the course on rebuilding America’s global military supremacy announced in the US National Defense Strategy last January does not seem to be a mere declaration. Even though it will be difficult to restore the scale of the US military dominance dating back to the 1990s and 2000s, Washington will at least aspire to that.

Fourth, contrary to the popular belief, Trump’s administration is not the most hawkish part of the American political establishment. As the executive branch, it has been trying to pursue a more balanced and responsible policy within the general paradigm of global containment of Russia and China. At the same time, Congressmen on both sides of the aisle have been pressing for tougher and indiscriminate pressure, able to hurt relations between the US and its allies and partners not less (and probably even more) than the trade wars unleashed by the White House. This once again proves that the general US pivot to a more unilateralist policy and greater pressure on both rivals and allies is not exclusively related to Donald Trump’s personal factor, but has more fundamental reasons.

The 2019 defense budget amounts to almost $717 billion, providing for increase in the military spending by $17 billion. This equals the volume of the US military expenditure in 2011 and reaches the post-WWII peak – $721 billion in 2010. However, one should take into account that 2010 and 2011 turned out to be the time of the most active phase of the US military operation in Afghanistan, while today the US does nothing of that kind. The reason for the current build-up of forces may be an attempt to respond to the military re-enforcement of Russia and China, and to strengthen the United States’ relative military supremacy.

World Politics Getting Rough This Summer Timofei Bordachev
The world as we see it today it is not a sheet of glass resembling the sea on which commodities together with ideas sail along without a hitch. It is rather an unpredictable stormy ocean that does not have mercy on anyone and does not give anyone a break.

The most interesting thing here is how fast and easily the US Congress approved the almost record-breaking budget in the nation’s postwar history. It was approved by the overwhelming majority of votes (359 against 54 in the House, 87 against 10 in the Senate) within a record-breaking timeframe.

Even the most furious opponents and critics of the Trump administration among the Republicans and Democrats share the same view: in an age of global rivalry with Russia and China, the military spending should be increased even more. That is why the factor of Donald Trump and hawks on his administration is at least an insufficient explanation of the rapid increase in military expenditures. It reflects a general trend and is the result of consensus that the US global leadership and supremacy are being attacked by Russia and China.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.