Between a financial crunch in Russia and a remilitarization drive in Japan Tokyo is now spending as much dollars on its military as Moscow is.
For 2017 Japan approved a record defense budget of 5.1 trillion yen or $44.5 billion at current rates which is just shy of Russia’s $45 billion budget.
That is remarkable from both ends. According to its enemies Russia is supposedly bent on recarving the Soviet empire but has slashed military budget to where it is no longer even in the top five investors into force.
Japan meanwhile has long been a peaceable state but is now pouring as much money into its armed forces as the second or third military power in the world.
This is not a good thing. A military buildup can be a good thing if it is done to bolster nation’s independence. Japan however is not building up its military in order to no longer need American protection and be able to get out from America’s shadow. — But on the contrary, in order to make itself more useful to the world hegemon.
In some small part Japan’s record military budget is a response to Trump’s rhetoric that US client states must shoulder more of the financial burden of American global hegemony.
In the larger part however, it is another incremental step on Japan’s path to militarization which encouraged by the US has been ongoing since at least 2004 when the then PM Koizumi deployed non-combat troops to occupied Iraq.
Koizumi went to Iraq to appease the Americans, but also to try and weaken the very sensible Japanese taboos against the use of military forces abroad.
PM Abe has continued these politicians and has has deployed combat troops to South Sudan, which for the first time are authorized to use force. The ploy is a very simple one.
Tokyo has no great interest in international ‘peacekeeping’, but taking on a mission like that provides a government with an apparent argument for greater funding and ever freer hands for the military.
The real goal is overcoming the constitutional and social resistance to a future where a heavily armed Japan in concert with the US draws a hard-line against China.
Some of that is understandable since there is some real tension and open issues between Japan and China, but the overall the conservative vision is shortsighted, petty, reckless and inane.
They are willfully oblivious to the simple fact that if Japan was not a part of the US bloc, but just another of China’s neighbors, then the Chinese themselves would be far less nervous and far less prideful, and it would be far easier for the two to find peaceful accommodation.
Of course in that case Japan might not even need an expensive military arrayed on a hair-trigger warning, and what then would these boys in mens’ bodies fantasize about instead?