This paper by Tim Sweijs and Floris Holstege, part of the Strategic Monitor 2018-2019, conducts an empirical analysis of trends in interstate military competition. It gauges the perceptions and intentions, capabilities, and conflict activities of leading military powers in the international system for the period 2008-2018. The principal conclusion is that interstate military competition is intensifying, and can be expected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
In official defense and security documents, the security environment is increasingly characterized in competitive terms while non-allied states are cast in a more antagonistic light. The use of military threats has increased, especially by the major powers. While military expenditure has not seen dramatic increases at the global level, leading states have started allocating more funding to their armed forces, following significant increases in the defense budgets of Russia and China. At the same time, the modernization of armed forces enjoys greater priority across the board. China and Russia have set course on a dedicated path to military modernization for over a decade now. The US similarly continues to be strongly committed to military modernization. In addition to the incremental renewal of their armed forces, all three powers pursue disruptive innovation too, in recognition of the potentially game-changing impact of AI on the future military balance of power. Leading European states, with the exception of the UK, are reversing direction and are gradually raising their procurement and military R&D budgets. Finally, internationalized intrastate conflict has increased dramatically, quintupling over the past decade. This carries considerable risk of escalation from indirect to direct state-on-state conflict. The key implications for the Netherlands of increasing military competition reside in the risks to the territorial and economic security of the Netherlands and its allies, and the erosion of international law.
Read the paper here.
Authors: Tim Sweijs, Director of Research and Floris Holstege, assistant analyst.