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updated 5:22 AM CEST, Jun 10, 2021

Global conflicts and peaces financed by American cash. Ok, but 400 years ago?

200 years before the birth of the USA the American continent put a brake on the Islamic expansion in Europe.

America 400 years ago had already played a decisive role in global wars and diplomacy: the war between the Habsburg and the Ottoman (or Turkish) territories.

In the 20th century wars become truly global. One of the superpowers, the United States developed into an empire present through arms and diplomacy in virtually all countries in the world. It has become fairly natural to say that America finances a war or makes peace here and there, and effects all kind of stages. Anywhere on the planet.

During the Long Turkish War (1593-1606) the Spanish Empire (the Western part of the Habsburg dinasty), like other Catholic powers supported financially the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg (headed by the Holy Roman Emperor) in their fight in Central Europe against the Ottoman Empire, with their headquarters in Constantinople. Many legal and political reasons contributed to the fact that for the kings of Spain (Philip II, then Philip III) the financial support of his brothers and sisters had supreme priority: the family ties, their own territories in Germany, their wars against the Dutch empire and France at the same time or their wars against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean.

Making use of written sources from the Austrian State Archives, I could find a special showcase from the years 1595/1596, when Madrid sent 300 thousand ducats to the other branch of the dinasty. Based on that, three conclusions can be drawn that shed some light on this historical comparison between the 16th century and the 21st. First, there was a direct connection between the arrival of the silver fleet (transporting gold and silver from the mines of the New World, one of the principal causes for the raise of Spain in the early modern era) to Sevilla and the decision on behalf of the Spanish monarchs on whether to send money to the Emperor. Second, these amounts, once they had crossed the border of the Habsburg lands in Central Europe, were directly invested in the Ottoman wars. Third,

the itinerary of the metals can be tracked down, specially from Sevilla to Barcelona and Genova to Tirol, through the hands of the agents of the Fugger family (one of the most influential banker and merchant families in history) and probably in the form of raw metal, to be converted into silver coins in Tirol, Austria.

How much was that money? In the 1590s, the total revenues of the Spanish crown from the mainland (Castile and Aragon) varied between 6 and 10 million ducats, coming from sales taxes, internal and external customs, monopolies, church revenues, extraordinary revenues and other indirect taxes. If we count with 8 million ducats on an average, 300 thousand ducats is around 4% of the total “national” income. If we calculate the total federal revenue of the US on an average, the sum was around 3 trillion dollars in the 2010s. 4% was 120 billion dollars. For comparison, the total US defense budget per year in the 2010s was around 600-700 billion dollars.

So it's like the US spends 15-20% of the entire defense budget on an external war.

And it took place just for 1 year for Spain and one of the wars the state was engaged in.

Was the sponsoring successful? The answer is most probably, yes. After centuries of continuous advances into Central Europe, this time the Ottoman empire failed to penetrate further into Christian lands and in the peace treaty of 1606 Constantinople needed to acknowledge that the emperor and the sultan are equals in terms of their titles and the status of their sovereignty – until then the emperors were called as mere kings on behalf of the Ottoman rulers.

400 years ago, America, the New World put a brake on the Islamic expansion in Europe, the Old.

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