When talking about the arms race it is usual to think about the competition between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War years. However, that race started much earlier.
Spain, among those who spent more on armies until well into the twentieth century
Last night I found an interesting video of Latos Charts published in September of this year. The video shows an evolution of military spenging from 1830 to today, showing which have been the 15 nations that have invested more money in defense in every moment. Although it was a declining power, it is striking to note that Spain continued to have a prominent position among the powers that most invested in its armies during the nineteenth century. In the 1860s military spending skyrocketed in the United States (because of the American Civil War) and also in European countries (because the Franco-Prussian War, for example).
A fact is striking: in 1898, in the middle of the war between the United States and Spain, US military spending exceeded 3,000 million dollars, while the Spanish was around 350 million. This enormous inequality of resources explains, to a large extent, the Spanish defeat in that war and the loss of its overseas territories. Despite this, Spain continued to be among the ten powers that most invested in defense in the first decades of the twentieth century.
The decline of Spain in 1940 and its resurgence at the end of the 20th century
Likewise, the video shows the importance of Poland as a military power between the two world wars, in which it was among the ten countries that most invested in defense (remember that the Poles had defeated the Soviets in the Polish-Soviet War 1919-1921, the first great military defeat of communism). In 1935 Germany’s military spending skyrocketed, placing it in second place worldwide behind the USSR (although the video shows the name «Russia» even during the Soviet dictatorship). Curiously, in 1936 Spain leaves the top ten countries, coinciding with the start of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1939 Germany already occupied the first place, followed by far by the United Kingdom. Spain disappeared from the list of the first 15 in 1940, not reappearing on it until 1992 (note that after the Civil War, the country was economically exhausted). Spain disappeared again from the list in 1995, appearing again in 1996 and descending in 1997. It returned to the list of the top 15 in 2002, staying ten years on it, until 2012, when the crisis reduced military spending. Since then, Spain has not re-entered that club of major powers.
Photo: USAF/DVIDShub. An «elephant walk» with F-16 fighters from the United States Air Force at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on October 1, 2019.
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