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Global Overview: Japan, India and Iran

AmeriVet Securities introduces our newest white paper series, “AmeriVet’s Global Overview,” headlined by one of our Advisory Board members, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Snodgrass.

AmeriVet’s Global Overview provides a synopsis on current affairs taking place in multiple countries around the world, complete with a brief background, a likely course of action moving forward, and what these events may potentially mean for the U.S.

This month, General Snodgrass focuses on Japan’s National Defense Strategy, India’s post-COVID economic challenges and the Middle East’s growing approach to international relations.

See more below.


Executive Summary

Japan’s new security approach: Funded by a 60% increase in defense spending in the next 5 years, it will be oriented on long range strike and interoperability with the U.S.

India addressing issues on three fronts:  Upgrading defense against China and historic friction with Pakistan; obtaining to grow indigenous capabilities and managing a huge post-COVID population living in poverty.

Iran:  Despite attempts to limit their nuclear program, Iran will likely attempt to continue destabilization efforts in any region where they can cause the west, and their neighbors, concern.

Japan’s 2022 National Defense Strategy: Moving into new territory.

Since the end of World War II Japan has concentrated on a military that exclusively focuses on self-defense of the nation and territories.  Recent events have prompted a new approach, still based in principles of self-defense.  The new National Security Strategy (NSS) lays out the global situation:

At this…inflection point in history; Japan is finding itself in the midst of the most severe and complex security environment since the end of WWII. In no way can we be optimistic about what the future of the international community will bring.[1]

Traditionally, Japanese defense posture changes have moved very slowly.  This approach calms neighbors and reassures friends and allies given Japan’s history.  This logic no longer appears to meet the needs of modern Japan in the future.

Japan is moving from a historically slow pace of change to a more rapid increase in spending to upgrade defense capabilities.  Some reasons are obvious:  A hostile and unpredictable North Korea, a China more and more focused on domination and expansion by any means, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Less obvious are the changing nature of defense, facilitated by rapid advances in science and technology affecting weapons development; integration and control of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance; information warfare; Artificial Intelligence and the operational concepts and capabilities necessary to integrate a modern force.[2]

The new National Defense Strategy (NDS), based on the NSS, lays out five- and 10-year ways, means and goals for improving defense while at the same time explaining and justifying these changes in the context of world events.

To achieve these goals Japan is moving away from their 1% GDP limit dedicated to self-defense forces by growing defense spending to 1.6% of GDP in the next 5 years. This 60% increase in spending is rather staggering in such a short period.  There were even discussions of increasing up to 2% when certain defense areas are included.[3] In the first year alone the increase is almost 26%. Spending this much in a short period is, at minimum, a challenge.

Some of the new capabilities include: Counterstrike capability, Tomahawk cruise missiles for power projection (Long Range Strike or LRS), a large increase in Cyber capabilities, and a necessary upgrade of all command-and-control interoperability to allow U.S. forces and Japanese Self Defense Forces to operate together seamlessly.

The new NDS does not link capabilities to specific scenarios but considers a very complex security environment.  In their view, these new capabilities are not a departure from Japan’s traditional defense policy; there are no constitutional restrictions on long range capabilities. Holding fixed targets at risk at long range is a new approach to self-defense, and when combined with future U.S. capabilities, will change the relationship on defense matters with U.S. The U.S./Japan dialogue on LRS will become more central to defense discussions as the 2026 date for deployment of Tomahawk on Japanese EGIS destroyers nears.

Conclusion:  Growing the defense budget 60% in 5 years will require considerable thought and planning and will likely result in the purchase of sizable amounts of new hardware from the U.S., and more investment in the Japan’s industrial base.

India’s funds some military upgrades despite post-COVID economy challenges.

India is struggling to upgrade their military in the face of a more demanding security environment while dealing with post-COVID economic issues.  These are long standing challenges, for example, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been ostensibly searching for a new fighter aircraft for over 16 years.  The IAF funded Teja fighter whose development languished from 2001 to 2016 before the first squadron was deployed.  The Teja was, and is, a particularly substandard aircraft.

In late 2009, recognizing that the Teja would not be deployed soon and would lack capability, the IAF began talks with Lockheed to acquire the F-16 Fighting Falcon.  The IAF eventually held a competition for a new fighter that ended in 2011.  Their requirement was for 126 fighters, (approximately $10B). The IAF eliminated the F-16 from competition in 2011 on an issue concerning engine replacement times.  Lockheed and the USG asked the IAF to reconsider, but after years of discussions and technical exchanges, the IAF rejected the F-16.

In 2015 the IAF approached Raytheon and asked if they could replace critical Teja components to make it more combat worthy.  For a year Raytheon worked with the USG for an exception to policy to release a version of the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR).  The U.S. finally agreed.  After almost 2 years of negotiations the IAF again pulled out after learning all they could about U.S. technology systems.

Finally, India decided to purchase French Rafales in 2016 (delivered in 2020) with some sources opining that technology transfer to India’s state-run Defense Research and Development Organization was part of the deal.  A second contract for Rafale fighters may be funded in the current Indian defense budget because of the competition between the carrier variant of the Rafale and the Boeing F/A-18 hornet.  That contract may be signed in March when President Macron visits India.[4]

In 2023, post-COVID, India is in a particularly difficult situation socially and economically.  At the end of 2020 estimates used by the World Bank, based on data from Consumer Pyramids Household Survey put the number of people living in poverty between 23 and 56 million.[5] The government’s response has been uneven at best with claims of continued growth in poverty and inequality.

Conclusion: India struggles on three fronts:  Rapidly upgrading defenses to stand up to Chinese pressure (China claims nearly 36,000 square miles of territory also claimed by India) and the continuing friction with Pakistan; supplying capital to state and private defense industry to grow indigenous capabilities, and managing a huge population, many living in poverty while the economy recovers from COVID.

Middle Eastern nations’ growing approach to international relations:  Balancing the U.S. and EU against Iran and China

 The Middle East continues to face multiple problems while trying to take advantage of some opportunities in the global environment. Internal problems persist yet the price of their main commodity, oil, offers the promise of income streams and subsequent social improvements.  At the same time tensions with Iran, how Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine and how the west in general have identified China as the primary existential threat are all factors Middle East leaders must balance.

Internally the post-COVID global economy outlook for recovery is positive but must be seen in context with other factors.  Chief among these factors is the high percentage of youth unemployment in many nations, 70% (14 of 20 nations) with unemployment exceeding 25% of youth ages 15-24. At the same time, with literacy rates mostly exceeding 90% the education systems seem unable to produce university graduates who have the math, science and engineering skills to compete in the global workplace.[6]  These factors combined form a breeding ground for extremists to recruit members to organizations such as ISIS.

Externally MENA must account for many factors. China has a growing energy requirement to regain pre-COVID rates of growth and due to global pressure to reduce emissions from coal, China is turning more and more to oil as an energy source.  Although the U.S. and EU have emerged as strong partners with most MENA members, tension and potential for actual conflict with China are likely threats to economic growth.  Climate change, and the possible impacts on world oil demand are also immediate threats to growth for many middle eastern nations.

Regionally Iran continues to be a headache if not a threat.  Iran continues to exert influence in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and of course, Yemen.  In Syria, the cumulative loss in GDP as a result of conflict have been estimated at $226 billion through 2017, about four times the Syrian GDP in 2010.  The majority of the more than 5.6 million people who fled Syria since 2011 moved to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where the extreme influx of people has had significant negative fiscal impacts.  The lack of governmental control in these areas offers opportunities for extremists, terrorists, and armed groups, to compete for power and influence.[7]

Iran has developed drones and missiles, some of which have been documented in the Ukraine war, as well as presented their neighbors with possible nuclear capabilities.  These abilities insert significant uncertainty into regional dynamics which are already under economic and social pressure.  These capabilities have been and are being employed against Saudi Arabia. The Iranian sponsored Houthi military campaign against Saudi Arabia has been on-going for almost 7 years. Recently there has been a rise in the number of attacks against Saudi as Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continue to provide the Houthis with sophisticated weapons systems including ballistic missiles, UAVs and unmanned maritime vehicles loaded with explosives.  With U.S. assistance, the Saudi Air Force has managed to shoot down about 90% of the UAVs and missiles launched from Yemen.[8]

Conclusion:  Other potential hot spots in the region include Iranian sponsored conflict in and between Syria and Iraq, Syrian and/or Iraqi Kurdish clashes with Turkey, and a Kurdish movement for independence.  The overt tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the UAE appears to have lessened and are simmering below the surface as all nations recognize Iran as a more immediate concern.  As the west continues to try to find ways of limiting Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will likely attempt to continue their destabilization efforts in any region where they can cause the west, and their neighbors, concern.


Learn more about the author, Advisory Board member and retired U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Snodgrass.


[1] National Security Strategy of Japan, December 2022.  Pg 38.

[2] National Defense Strategy, December 16, 2022.  Translated by the Ministry of Defense.

[3] Japan approves record 114tn yen budget with big defense outlay,for%20the%20fifth%20straight%20year.

[4] India unveils new defense budget aimed at promoting a self-reliant industry. industry/#:~:text=India’s%20total%20defense%20budget%20for,defense%20pensions%20of%20retired%20personnel.

[5] Correcting Course, pg 5.

[6] CIA World Factbook.

[7] World Bank, Middle East and North Africa Region, Economic Update, October 2022, pp . 88-89.

[8] CSIS analysis, The Iranian and Houthi War Against Saudi Arabia, December 2021.,monthly%20average%20of%201.6%20attacks.