Why don't the other countries of Europe maintain as massive a military as Russia does?

  • The countries that are in my inquiry list are:

    --------+----------+-------------+-----------+---------
        SN  | Country  | Population  |    GDP    | DefExp
    --------+----------+-------------+-----------+---------
        0   | Russia   | 143,439,832 | 1,267,750 | 66.4 bn
        1   | Germany  |  80,682,351 | 3,494,900 | 39.4 bn
        2   | UK       |  65,111,143 | 2,649,890 | 55.5 bn
        3   | France   |  64,668,129 | 2,488,280 | 50.9 bn
        4   | Turkey   |  79,622,062 |   755,716 | 22.6 bn
    

    My questions are:

    1. Given that France, Germany and the UK have larger economies than Russia does, why do they spend less on defense than Russia does, yet always seem to be scared of Russia?
    2. Why does Russia maintain so massive a military when these countries can't?
    3. How can Russia spend so much on defense?
    4. Given that these countries spend so much on defense, why do they seek US help/alliance to counter Russia?
    5. Why is NATO still so important to them even though they spend so much on defense? Aside from the USA, these four countries' combined spending far exceeds Russia's, and Russia still can bargain with them in Syria.

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    Just a few years ago the UK and France spent more than Russia on the military.

  • axsvl77

    axsvl77 Correct answer

    5 years ago

    This is a great question about both politics and history. It relates directly to the changing nature of what a "country" is. First, let me directly answer your questions:

    1. Given that France, Germany and the UK have larger economies than that of Russia, why do they spend less in defense than that of Russia and always seem to be scared of Russia?

    There are two easy answers for this, namely a) Because the US military is present in the region, so the people feel secure from Russian attack and b) because the voters in these countries vote for social services like health care instead of military spending.

    1. Why does Russia maintain so massive military when these countries can't?

    Germany, UK, France, and other western European countries are more than capable of spending a ton of money on military. They choose not to because they are working as a team within the Nato alliance - and they do this for a couple of reasons that will be elaborated below.

    1. Why can Russia spend so much on defense?

    Because Russia can do as it pleases within its means!

    As for why it does, the reason is the same as for other countries: they spend the amount they can afford for its constituent population to feel "secure". Russia is a huge country with strong neighbors. In the past 100 years, they have fought wars along most of these borders. While the western European invasion during WWII was significant, it is notable that there was a small hot war with China in the '60s and '70s, and war with Afghanistan. They still have territorial disputes with Japan - and they are slowly being intimidated by an expanding Nato that is vocally hostile to the Russian state and hence the Russian population.

    1. Given that these countries spend so much on defense, Why do these countries seek US help/alliance to counter Russia?

    This is the most critical question you ask, I will answer with a counter question: do these countries have a choice?

    At the end of WWII, Europe was largely occupied in the west by the US military, and in the east by the Soviet military. One could say that all the countries in the East became client states of the Soviet Union, and that those in the West became client states of the USA. Both the Soviet Union and especially the USA, maintained large military bases in these states. The US still has numerous bases. Could we call the US an occupying power? What would it take for Germany to end the presence of the US military on its soil?

    However, most Americans and Western Europeans bristle at the idea that they are involuntarily "occupied" by Americans, they are instead "Allies"! And it is good, of course to be best friends with the rich American business interests. Trade and mutual economic benefits keep Germany, France, and the UK, most of Europe, in this alliance. Indeed, besides a handful of nations like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, everyone tries to stay on the good side of the Americans. Both for commercial reasons, and because the US, frankly, has a dominant military presence just about everywhere. Perhaps a commenter can correct me, but I think for some reason the US has ~5000 military bases overseas.

    1. Why is NATO still so important to them even though they spend so much on defense? Aside the USA, these four countries' combined spending far exceeds Russia and Russia still can bargain with them in Syria.

    NATO is important because it indicates what relationship these countries have with Washington. Russia is in Syria for a variety of reasons; it has more interest in the area than Syria's former colonial masters, the UK and France.


    An important point to note is that the concept of a country is fairly new; I have read, and agree, that modern states did not become such an important unit of human organization until the Great Depression in the 1930s; at that time the problems facing them - broken economies and socialist movements - the country level government was the only organization existing that could solve these problems while the existing power structure stayed in power. Since then, states are portrayed as "immortal" and "ever lasting". But in truth, they are not. Competing levels of organization - family, village, community, province, supranational, class, or something else - can eventually take primacy in terms of absolute power. What will happen is a matter of conjecture, but the point is clear: countries are not the only level of organization.

    For example, what is the EU? Are Germany and France and UK independent countries, as the UN says, or are they members of a single supranational organization? Both really, for example, the UK will have to negotiate its secession or pay a heavy price. While everyone can agree that in name these countries are independent, they do heavily coordinate most of their economical and political activity. This includes military activity.

    Summary:

    The level of military coordination between western European countries and the US means that spending on military need only match Russian military spending on a collective basis. I think with data about US spending and presence in and around Europe, the collective manpower and economic investment will be far greater than that of Russia.

    It's secession not succession. Also, do you have any sources for any of your statements?

    It is not without irony that the country which spends the most on defence, namely the USA, is the one which does not have a universal free public health care system. What we are starting to see is a realisation by America that if it is going to provide its citizens with the health and social care standards accepted as the norm in Western Europe, they will have to persuade the Europeans to pick up a bigger share of the defence budget.

    This is the best answer because it goes into the importance of NATO. Individually Germany, UK, France, Turkey do not need to match the Russian military (numbers or spending) because they know that the combined forces of NATO far exceed any force the Russians could put together.

    Good answer, but I would also add that they get their military for very cheap. Think Conscription.

    Failed Unit Test: My emphasis here are qualitatively why Russia needs a significant military, and how western European military is organized. You are right, it is difficult to compare the military capability of individual countries. It is much more than "# of people" or "amount of money"

    Re (4): I was born in Normandy (France). The US tactics during the D-Day and following fight was to bomb everything before advancing its troops, destroying much of the buildings. The town I was born in (Saint-Lo) was destroyed at 80% by the Americans... now, guess who helped rebuild after the war? Western Europe was a wreck after WWII, but American soil had never been invaded so its economy was strong. The US were very careful about "helping" their allies rebuild, and doing so installing commercial ties.

    "that is vocally hostile to the Russian state *and hence the Russian population*" The latter part of that sentence is clearly false. The West has a number of issues with the Russian state, most notably human rights abuses, the lack of free and fair elections in a country which is an oligarchy, the rise of paramilitary organisations intimidating or assassinating political opposition, even political assassinations in other countries, wars of aggression with several neighbours... I could go on, but you get the picture. The West *supports* the Russian population *against* the Russian state.

    @Graham Are you 100% certain the west is never, and has never been an aggressor? Really, the most war-mongering nation in recent history was the UK; there are very few places they did not invade and exploit. Look at aggressive economic and military behavior by the US, it is not so far fetched that the US military is feared by many the world over. This includes the Russian people, of course. I can never understand how it is not obvious to everyone that the potential of US war planes on bombing raids is a scary idea?

    @Graham Did the west support the Russian people in the 90's after the cold war? Or did the death rate soar in the midst of economic collapse?

    @axsvl77 In recent history, like the last 10-20 years? Even if we stretch back 50 years, you're clearly wrong about the UK. The US has many problems, but assassination of political opposition and journalists is not one of them. It is routine in Russia. (I can cite examples if you want.) As for the 90s, the West probably could have done more, but the direct cause of the economic collapse was Russian oligarchs plundering the country's resources and finances with the connivance of the Russian state (hell, many of them *were* the Russian state).

    @WS2 Do you think that less is spent in health care in USA than in those other countries, and that is why the USA can afford to spend more in the military? You are very wrong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_per_capita

    @Pablo Britain spends about 9% of its GDP on health care which is overwhelmingly public-funded. I understand the USA spends double that,, but that it's average health outcomes are no better or even poorer. In other words it is not achieving anything like the same efficiencies. To extend high quality care to 100% of the population would involve massive additional funding

    @WS2 My point is that the problem of the US health care system is not lack of funding because of military spending, the problem is efficiency. In other words, the cause of the poor state of the US health care system is not caused by military spending.

    @Pablo I believe that a very large component of medical costs in the US relate to public liability insurance, due to the astronomical awards for medical negligence. A very big difference between the US and UK is that in Britain there is no such concept as punitive damages, in any field of tort. All that a wronged party can claim is the actual cost of the damage. "Punishment" can only be invoked by the criminal branch of the law, from which the wronged party gets no pecuniary benefit.

    @WS2 True. I'd like add to your point that the US health insurance companies take ~25% profit, the MD's are much more expensive due to the AMA monopolies, golden parachutes for hospital directors, and inflated drug prices. Altogether this explains why the US, in general, spends more on health care without better outcomes than western Europe.

    @axsvl77 I have no idea why you think U.S. insurance companies make ~25% profit. The industry-wide average was 3.3% immediately prior to the implementation of ACA. Lots of U.S. insurance companies don't make any profit at all. For example, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is one of the largest and it's a non-profit organization (and thus literally can't make profit.)

    "What would it take for Germany to end the presence of the US military on its soil?" Asking is the usual way. See the Philippines, for example. As far as the number of overseas military bases, it's about 800.

    rerab: Very semantic argument. You are probably there are 800 under the authority of the Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines, and Coast Guard. There are also many CIA and other agency bases overseas that I include in my vernacular pronoun "military bases" although technically CIA isn't military. Nonetheless, the CIA is not exactly on a peaceful trade mission with all these bases.

    @MatthieuM. - not just helping the wartime allies rebuild, but also the vanquished enemies (who have since become allies). One of the lessons learned from the brutality of a second World War was that the extremely punitive behavior of the victors after the first World War (Treaty of Versailles) only leads to deep-seeded hostility and resentment over the long term.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM