A cinque anni dall’inizio della crisi economica Matthew Hill, dottorando alla Cornell University, in un post per il blog del Lowy Institute sintetizza le ricadute strategiche per l’aria dell’Asia-Pacifico:
[…] As the chart below suggests, the divergence in the fiscal paths of major regional states is substantially mirrored in their defence spending trajectories. Those states capable of pragmatically adjusting their budgets have also retained scope for increasing defence spending.
While the relationship between state finances and military capacity is hardly determinative, it does suggest three blunt insights into the future evolution of the strategic balance in the Asia Pacific.
Firstly, while overall US military expenditure remains substantial, present trends suggest a rapid attrition of its lead. This trajectory is the font of regional scepticism regarding the implications of the Obama Administration’s much-heralded ‘pivot’ to the region. While commentators have obsessed over the impact of the Administration’s handling of Syria on US credibility, the reality is that constant congressional willingness to play chicken with the economy is vastly more damaging to Asia Pacific assessments of Washington’s capacity for strategic commitment.
Second, it is notable that Russia and China dominate the list of beneficiaries of fiscal-military dynamics, while their potential counterweights, Japan and India, look set to lag behind. This complicates the ability of the US to step back from the region towards a role as ‘offshore balancer’, since such a role implies a higher level of strategic engagement by US partners than they appear capable of.
Third, the evolution of strategic and fiscal dynamics is notable for its outliers. Two major US partners who appear to be in a fiscal position to increase their defence spending (South Korea and Australia) have so far chosen not to. With respect to the latter, the inauguration of the Abbott Government may indicate a shift towards more robust expenditure, but that is far from certain.
The behaviour of both Canberra and Seoul may reflect a tacit acceptance of the limits of their strategic potential relative to regional behemoths. If so, the scope for strategic engagement in support of regional stability may be rapidly shrinking.