West’s military superiority on global stage withering away – report

© Russell Cheyne
The West’s long-held superiority in military technology is withering away as defense spending in Asia soars and states across the globe gain increasing access to advanced weaponry, a new report has found.

In its latest study, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) found that advances in arms technology that were once the preserve of the West are becoming increasingly accessible to states worldwide.

The study, which is titled “Military Balance 2016,” examines the military and defense spending capabilities of 171 countries across the globe. It is released annually by the think tank and is viewed as an important resource in the field of defense and security policy-making.

The IISS found that cruise missiles, unmanned drones and technology used for the purpose of electronic warfare are no longer accessible merely to Western states, but have also become available to governments worldwide. The report said the number of states known to operate unmanned drones had doubled since 2011, with China exporting them to allied states such as Iraq and Nigeria.

The report went on to make a number of controversial claims about Russian, Asian and NATO defense spending. It said a rise in the Kremlin’s defense budget for 2015 sparked a 20 percent increase in military spending worldwide, while Asia spends almost $100 billion more on defense than NATO’s European members. 

© Paul Hackett

The report also noted the number of army battalions in the most prominent NATO states and in America had plunged from 649 to 185 since 2001. Meanwhile, British combat aircraft numbers were found to have fallen from 475 to 194 since 1991, while French warplanes were found to have plummeted from 579 to 271.

Speaking at a London press conference, IISS Director General John Chipman warned the West’s 20-year military superiority in technological terms is dwindling.

“Slowing this emerging trend or reversing it will be a key preoccupation of Western strategists in the coming decade,” he said.

The IISS report said Britain is attempting to remain ahead of the curve by developing a solar-powered surveillance drone, while the US is working on sophisticated electronics for unmanned aerial vehicles.

“ISIS [Islamic State/IS, also known as ISIL], and the groups around the world that have pledged allegiance to it, cannot be eradicated solely by military means,” the report said.

“Tackling these groups will require multinational attention and the concerted and long-term application of policies and tools blending political, military, security, information, and development capacities, and agreement on ends as well as means.”