7 Reasons Why Military Aid Is Important

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Military aid is the assistance given to poorer or weaker countries to defend themselves and secure their territory. It can be in the form of loans or grants to support a nation’s armed forces, the donation of military equipment or the providing of training and logistical support.

Countries such as the US, UK and France give billions of dollars in military aid, but it is controversial. With that said, military aid is actually vitally important. Here’s why…

It Allows Countries to Defend Themselves

The first reason why military aid is important is that it allows countries to defend themselves.

Many nations face extensive threats from internal and external armed actors. Poor nations especially lack the resources to train and equip their militaries to secure their territory. Military aid from friendly states plays a key role in many poorer country’s defences.

Peace and security is vital to economic development. Although dialogue between warring parties is key, governments also need to able to take military action against aggressors in order to bring them to negotiations. Military aid is important because it supports governments with the supplies they need in order to achieve security.

Another way that military aid is crucial in helping countries defend themselves is in supplying them with training and equipment they need, but would be unable to access themselves. Most donor nations of military aid have more advanced technology and training methods so provide these as aid to recipient countries. Many less developed countries need access to these in order to meet their security challenges.

Military aid is crucial in giving friendly countries the right tools to ensure their own defence.

An example of military aid being given to help weaker countries defend themselves is US military aid to Taiwan and NATO providing military aid to Ukraine following the onset of hostilities with Russian-back separatists.

Military Aid Is in Our Strategic Interest

The second reason why military aid is important is because it is in our own strategic interests. In the modern world, security threats are global. Richer countries need to help less developed nations become secure to prevent issues such as terrorism, illegal arms and drug trades, cybercrimes, and refugee migrations from impacting more widely.

Military aid allows poorer countries to tackle insecurity when it arises. This can help contain issues. Military aid also limits the need for Western countries to engage our own forces to fight terrorism and other global threats.

Many threats are best addressed locally, rather than by an invading force, and military aid is vital in helping poorer countries do this.

Essentially, military aid is important because it helps to keep us safer, whilst reducing the man-power commitments of our own armed forces. Military aid is in our own strategic interest because it gives countries the military equipment and training needed to contain threats before they can spread more widely.

An example of how military aid is given in our own strategic interests is military aid provided to Nigeria to help contain Boko Haram, or assistance given to the Iraqi army to fight ISIS. Both are terror cells that could pose a global threat, but which are being combatted and contained by local forces.

It Builds and Strengthens Alliances

Military aid is important in building alliances. Throughout history, providing equipment, training, or finances for an allied countries military has been a key part of alliances between nations. Many alliances between countries are for mutual defence and military aid has played a vital part in helping states defend each other.

Many alliances between countries are formed with the agreement to provide military aid. Often a smaller country will ally with a stronger power to secure military assistance, or more equally match nations will join together for their mutual defence. The provision of military aid often plays an important part when countries form alliances.

An example of the how crucial military aid is international alliances is NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a mutual defence pact between the US and Canada and many European nations. Military aid is vital to NATO as countries form a collective security agreement where all members must come to each other defence. Military aid from stronger and richer nations in NATO helps to bolster the armed forces of newer and weaker member states against external aggression.

Another example of military aid being important to international alliances in the new AUKUS agreement between the US, UK, and Australia. A key part of this agreement is the provision of military aid to help Australia build nuclear-powered submarines as a deterrence to China.

It Increases Trade

Although it can be controversial, military aid plays an important role in international trade. This increased trade can be a significant boost to the economy of the donor country.

When nations give military aid, they often include guarantees that arms will be purchased from companies from that country. This massively benefits arms manufacturers from the donor nation. This in-turn helps the economy of that country as more highly skilled and well-paid jobs are created, as well as increased financial resources for arms companies to use for research and development.

The global arms trade is worth around 95 billion dollars a year. It is so lucrative and important that nations often compete to sell arms to countries looking for assistance. Military aid is a key way to ensure a country buys arms from a nations arms companies and this is why it is considered so crucial.

There are many examples of countries using military aid to boost their domestic arms trade. These include the British sale of weapons to Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Although this military aid was controversial during the war in Yemen, the UK continued to sell weapons to these countries because the sale of arms was so important to the British economy.

It Helps Develop and Exchange New Military Technology

Another reason why military aid is important is because it helps countries to develop new military technologies as well as exchange developments in military tactics and hardware.

Advancements in military technology are vital for nations to stay ahead of their international competition. Military aid is a key way for donor countries to test their latest military equipment and tactics. It is also a way for a countries arms industry to develop new hardware for different contexts.

Military aid is also important because it allows allied countries to exchange military technology.

By providing assistance to recipient countries, donor nations can get in return practical field-testing reports of their equipment and training. When countries receiving military aid require specific military solutions, such as tailored equipment or training, it is also an opportunity for donor nations to develop new advancements for their own militaries.

An example of military aid allowing for the development and exchange of new military technology is the United States support for Israel. By providing substantial funds in military aid, the US supports Israel’s domestic arms industry. Israeli arms manufactures have pioneered many military advancements that the US has benefitted from. These include the Iron Dome missile defence system.

Military Aid Is A Key Part of Development Assistance

Military aid can be a crucial part of development aid.

In many places that require assistance to raise people of out poverty, instability poses a barrier. If just development aid is provided, projects risk failure as armed groups will seize aid and development gains will be lost due to fighting, displacement, or continued poverty.

Simply giving money or aid may not solve many countries issues as they lack the stability and capable governments needed to achieve development. This is where military aid plays an important role.

Providing military aid to poorer countries, alongside development assistance, allows them to secure areas before implementing projects to raise the standard of living. This increases the likelihood of long-term and sustainable improvements.

Many poor countries are stuck in what’s known as the ‘conflict trap’. This is where poverty and a lack of opportunities fuels resentment and conflict, which in-turn ensures continued lack of development. Military aid can be vital to helping countries break this cycle.

An example of countries using military aid as a key part of their development programmes is UK and US military aid to Nigeria. This aims to help the Nigerian army defeat Islamist insurgent Boko Haram, which is required if sustainable development is to be achieved in north-eastern Nigeria.

It Helps Build Peace

The final reason why military aid is important is because it is vital to building peace. Although negotiations and dialogue are key to ending conflicts and creating inclusive societies, in many contexts armed groups need to be brought to the negotiating the table by military force. Providing governments with the arms and training needed to combat armed groups and other threats helps to create the conditions for peace.

Many countries lack the finances and military resources to achieve security. They do not lack the willingness to combat their enemies but need assistance in improved training and equipment. Military aid from friendly countries is critical in helping many nations combat their threats and this is why it is important.

Supporting weaker nations that align with our values with military aid is the right thing to do. As richer countries with more advanced military technology and training, it is morally right to help other countries defend themselves.

The world is a better place the more peace is achieved, and military aid can be a key step in helping poorer and weaker nations achieve security and end conflicts.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.