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Turkey’s Military Spending Trends: A Reflection of Changes in Defense Policy

The existing body of research on defense spending contains two main theses that appear in the much-debated discourse of “guns versus butter.” The first major theoretical issue that has dominated the field for many years concerns ‘security.’ In order to keep the country safe, primacy should be given to security within the grand strategy. The other argument gives priority to ‘butter,’ since defense spending is considered as a wasteful and inefficient investment. Apart from these major arguments, scholars have also long debated the long-term political, military, economic, commercial, diplomatic, social and cultural consequences of reducing versus increasing military spending. In light of these debates in the literature, this paper attempts to show that the prioritization of defense spending during the AK Party era is specifically the outcome of a political preference—a pragmatic shift in the political landscape from idealism to realism.

Turkey s Military Spending Trends A Reflection of Changes in
 

 

 

 

 

Introduction: Challenges in Analyzing Spending Trends

 

The collected data and findings on defense spending patterns must be interpreted with caution owing to several factors. First of all, ‘defense spending’ is a contested term; there is no agreed upon definition of what constitutes ‘security,’ ‘military,’ and ‘defense’ spending, and so these concepts have overlapping, and even slightly confusing meanings. The degree of uncertainty around the terms used to describe ‘expenditures’ derives from differences in terminology preferences, budget items and the variety of parameters and calculation formulas used by governmental and non-governmental organizations. For instance, although NATO’s defense expenditure and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) military expenditure terms are similar to each other, their assessment processes vary due to the parameters used. To give an example, SIPRI includes paramilitary forces “when judged to be trained, equipped and available for military operations;” however, with regard to the change made in the definition in 2004, NATO does not include paramilitary forces in its defense budget unless they are “realistically deployable.”1 While SIPRI includes pensions in military spending, it excludes civil defense spending; the opposite is the case in the IMF’s annual reporting. To show the difference in calculation formulas (base year, etc.), in 2019, Global Firepower ranked Turkey in 18th place, while SIPRI ranked Turkey in 16th place in the list of top military spenders. Briefly, since there are no commonly adopted content standards and criteria, the data and estimates on countries’ military/defense expenditures may differ in published reports. Indeed, NATO drew attention to the distinction between its own definitions of defense spending and those of member states, and to the differences in the official statements and figures reflected in the budgets by national authorities.

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