China and Russia’s military budgets combined exceed US spending, says top general

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China and Russia’s combined military spending exceeds that of the United States when adjusted for purchasing power, which has enabled China to fill capacity gaps in its quest to become the largest superpower by the middle of the century, the U.S. chief military officer said Thursday.

“Taken together, the Russian and Chinese budgets will exceed our budgets if all the cards are on the table,” said General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Senate Armed Forces Committee. He called China’s rising spending trend “worrying”.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington for a hearing on the budget of the Senate Armed Forces on June 10, 2021.

China and Russia are the two main competitors of the US military. Defense ministers from Jim Mattis to Lloyd Austin have identified China as a “challenge at pace” for the US military.

Senator Jim Inhofe, the senior member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a recent article that the Chinese defense budget, adjusted for purchasing power, was $ 604 billion and the Russian defense budget was around $ 200 billion, adjusted for purchasing power.

“Too much with too little”

The gaps that existed between the US and China’s military capabilities two or three decades ago have narrowed, according to officials.

“We’ve asked our military to do too much with too little for too long,” said Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.

FILE - Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Participates in a Senate Environment and Public Works markup at the Capitol in Washington DC on May 26, 2021.

FILE – Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Participates in a Senate Environment and Public Works markup at the Capitol in Washington DC on May 26, 2021.

“It is our duty to defend this nation, and this draft budget does not,” added Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi. Other senators, including Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, pointed to funding gaps between that of several military leaders for the Defense of the Pacific and the government’s current budget proposal.

Milley and Austin said the $ 715 billion defense budget will require tough decisions from the department, but it is a means of providing the US with “an adequate defense.”

“We strive for the skills that match the operating concepts we employ and that will enable us not only to be competitive but to be dominant in this competition,” said Austin.

Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, defended the budget, telling his Republican counterparts that while Biden’s budget is $ 6 billion less than the Trump administration’s proposed budget for this year, Trump’s military budgets were actually lower as he repeatedly withdrew money from the Pentagon budget for “non-military emergencies” such as building a wall along the southern US border.

“Random Conflict”

As the US focuses on the growing threat from China, Senator Angus King of Maine said Thursday that “one of the most serious risks” is an “accidental conflict with China.” The registered independent highlighted the tensions surrounding Taiwan and the South China Sea and said the US needed an effective line of communication to prevent such a conflict.

“There needs to be a direct line of communication between the military and government officials as well,” agreed Austin.

“I’m worried that something might happen that could cause a crisis [with China]and I think we need the ability to talk to both our allies and partners, but also to our adversaries or potential adversaries, “he said.

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