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Europe

Global Defense Spending Surges

In the wake of September 11, military spending is on the rise across the globe. A German think tank warns that the U.S. is the leader in a 960 billion euro defense spending spree that could lead us back to the 1980s.

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Regional conflicts are fueling Cold War-scale military outlays

In its annual report, "Conversion Survey 2002," the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) warns that after a decade of shrinking, military spending is climbing fast.

"When it comes to the magnitude of military spending and planned increases, the United States is the lone global leader," says Michael Brzoska, one of the report's authors.

With a military budget of $343 billion (369 billion euro) in 2002 (up from $310 billion the previous year), the United States spends almost eight times as much as Japan, which spends $45 billion, the report states. It spends nine times more than France, Great Britain and China, which each spend under $40 billion.

The gap is even greater between the U.S. and Germany, which spends twelve times less at about $30 billion annually.

Fueled by threat of terrorism

Total global spending on defense this year is expected to soar to $900 billion (960 billion euros), the report estimates. The organization believes the U.S.-led war against terror is fueling that trend.

Since September 11, the U.S. alone has allocated an additional $10 billion to its Pentagon budget. And by 2007, the U.S. says it wants to increase its overall defense spending to $469 billion.

The U.S. is not alone in its increased spending. The report states that Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the Arab states are also adding to their annual military expenditures.

Back to the '80s

The upward trend marks a dramatic 180-degree turn from the peaceful gains of the mid-'80s and mid-'90s, when global military spending fell by 50 percent.

In recent years, it has climbed steadily. With expected growth of five percent, the BICC says military spending this year will return to its 1992 levels. And if the trend continues, spending could soon return to its 1987 historical peak by 2010.

The BICC notes that Europe does not appear to be following the American trend, despite pleas made by President George W. Bush for NATO partners to increase military spending. Such increases are unlikely in Europe right now, with tight national budgets and a preference for conversion rather than expansion of military capabilities in many EU countries.

In Germany during the 1990s, conversion and demobilization programs led to a 50 percent reduction in the country's military spending.

A prime example of such swords to plowshares projects is Hahn Airport, a former U.S. Air Force base that was converted into a civilian airport. Hahn is now the German hub for the fast-growing budget airline carrier Ryanair.

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