Global Defense Spending Increases
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued April 24, 2017)
According to the latest report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), countries around the world are spending ever more money on weapons. Diplomacy, it seems, is in retreat.

Global defense spending has gone up for the first time since 2011. According to the World Military Expenditure Report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), countries around the world spent a total of $1.68 trillion (1.56 trillion euros) on arms in 2016. That is 0.4 percent more than in 2015.

Leading military powers – USA, China and Russia – increased spending more than other countries. Some countries with traditionally large military budgets, such as Saudi Arabia, decreased spending, though they did so not out of political conviction, but rather due to economic problems stemming from the falling price of oil.

The spending increase confirms a growing trend, as political scientist Marius Bales of the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) told DW. "Today, unlike a decade ago, actors are not relying on diplomacy and international institutions. Instead, individual countries are investing in arms to protect themselves."

Increasing military importance

Russia's annexation of Crimea, tensions in the South China Sea, wars in the Middle East: all of these situations are feeding the fear that armed conflicts will continue to spread, says Bales. At the same time, he says that there is a lack of confidence in the work being done by international organizations and institutions. This has led countries to fend for themselves. The importance of national armies has grown, and thus, so has defense spending.

That rule also applies to countries that already have massive military budgets. The USA, for instance, increased spending by 1.7 percent in 2016, bringing its total annual expenditures up to $611 billion; Russia increased spending by 5.9 percent ($69.2 billion); and China by 5.4 percent ($215 billion).

Crisis zone Middle East

The Middle East remains one of the world's major crisis regions. The war in Syria has only worsened the situation. The war has also driven up spending for those countries involved in the conflict. "Our information suggests that in 2016, Russia spent some $464 million on its commitment in Syria," says economist Nan Tian, one of the authors of the SIPRI report.

Saudi Arabia, however, decreased its military expenditures in 2016. Political scientist Bales told DW that after increasing its military spending from 9 percent of GDP to more than 13 percent in 2015, the kingdom's spending decreased to around 10 percent of GDP in 2016. But he says that has less to do with political motivation than with falling oil prices – which have made it impossible for the royal family to maintain its accustomed level of military investment. "80 percent of Saudi Arabia's income is derived from oil," Nan Tian told DW. "So they have had to make budget cuts across the board."

Numerous hot spots

All of that has done little to de-escalate the conflict between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival, the Islamic Republic of Iran, says BICC's Marius Bales. Neither side sees much future in negotiations and have instead put their faith in military solutions.

But the constant tension in the region also serves to drive defense spending by other countries as well. "Every country in the Middle East, with the exception of Oman, is involved in some type of violent conflict," says Bales. Falling oil prices have led to a decrease in terms of total dollar military expenditures: "but friction in the region has continued to lead to an overall military buildup."

Tensions in Europe

Military expenditures have gone up in Europe as well. SIPRI researchers found that spending increased by 2.6 percent in 2016. Central European countries were most responsible for the uptick. "The increase in expenditures can be traced back to the fact that many Central European countries see Russia as a growing threat," writes Siemon Wezeman, one of the authors of the study. "The fact that Russia spent just 27 percent of that which NATO countries did in 2016 has done little to change attitudes."

Marius Bales says that there is little proof that increased defense spending will actually lead to greater stability. Adding that if Russia should feel threatened by increased European military expenditures, then the Europe might well find itself in a new East-West arms race.

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World Military Spending: Increases in the USA and Europe, Decreases In Oil-Exporting Countries, Says SIPRI
(Source: SIPRI; issued April 24, 2017)
STOCKHOLM --- Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 per cent in real terms from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year. The comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database is accessible from today at www.sipri.org.

World military expenditure rose for a second consecutive year to a total of $1686 billion in 2016—the first consecutive annual increase since 2011 when spending reached its peak of $1699 billion.* Trends and patterns in military expenditure vary considerably between regions. Spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East (based on countries for which data is available), South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The USA’s spending returns to growth; Saudi Arabia’s spending falls significantly

The United States remains the country with the highest annual military expenditure in the world. US military spending grew by 1.7 per cent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion. Military expenditure by China, which was the second largest spender in 2016, increased by 5.4 per cent to $215 billion, a much lower rate of growth than in previous years. Russia increased its spending by 5.9 per cent in 2016 to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender. Saudi Arabia was the third largest spender in 2015 but dropped to fourth position in 2016. Spending by Saudi Arabia fell by 30 per cent in 2016 to $63.7 billion, despite its continued involvement in regional wars. India’s military expenditure grew by 8.5 per cent in 2016 to $55.9 billion, making it the fifth largest spender.

The growth in US military expenditure in 2016 may signal the end of a trend of decreases in spending, which resulted from the economic crisis and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. US spending in 2016 remained 20 per cent lower than its peak in 2010. ‘Despite continuing legal restraints on the overall US budget, increases in military spending were agreed upon by Congress,’ said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. ‘Future spending patterns remain uncertain due to the changing political situation in the USA.’

Increases in Europe linked to growing threat perceptions

Military expenditure in Western Europe rose for the second consecutive year and was up by 2.6 per cent in 2016. There were spending increases in all but three countries in Western Europe. Italy recorded the most notable increase, with spending rising by 11 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

The countries with the largest relative increases in military spending between 2015 and 2016 are in Central Europe. Overall spending in Central Europe grew by 2.4 per cent in 2016. ‘The growth in spending by many countries in Central Europe can be partly attributed to the perception of Russia posing a greater threat,’ said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme. ‘This is despite the fact that Russia’s spending in 2016 was only 27 per cent of the combined total of European NATO members.'

Large falls in military expenditure in many oil-exporting countries

‘Falling oil revenue and associated economic problems attached to the oil-price shock has forced many oil-exporting countries to reduce military spending,’ said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme. ‘For example, between 2015 and 2016 Saudi Arabia had the biggest absolute decrease in spending of $25.8 billion.’

The largest cuts in military expenditure in 2016 related to falling national oil revenues were in Venezuela (–56 per cent), South Sudan (–54 per cent), Azerbaijan (–36 per cent), Iraq (–36 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (–30 per cent). Other notable decreases were seen in Angola, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Oman and Peru. Only 2 of the 15 countries with the largest falls in spending in 2016 are not oil exporters.

However, a minority of oil-exporting countries, such as Algeria, Iran, Kuwait and Norway, are better equipped economically to deal with oil-price shocks and could continue with their existing spending plans in 2016.

Other notable developments:

• World military spending in 2016 accounted for 2.2 per cent of global GDP. Military spending as a share of GDP, was highest in the Middle East (for countries where data is available), with an average of 6.0 per cent of GDP in 2016, while the lowest was in the Americas, with an average of 1.3 per cent of GDP.

• Spending in Africa fell by 1.3 per cent in 2016, a second year of decrease after 11 consecutive years of increases. This was mostly due to spending cuts in oil-exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Angola and South Sudan).

• In Asia and Oceania, military expenditure rose by 4.6 per cent in 2016. Spending levels are related to the many tensions in the region such as over territorial rights in the South China Sea.

• Military expenditure in Central America and the Caribbean and South America combined decreased by 7.8 per cent to a level not seen since 2007. The fall is largely explained by spending reductions by oil-exporting countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Brazil’s spending continued to decline as a result of a worsening economic crisis.

• There is no estimate for the Middle East as data is unavailable for several key spenders such as the United Arab Emirates. For countries where data is available, substantial increases were seen in Iran and Kuwait, while sizable decreases were noted in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

* All percentage changes are expressed in real terms (constant 2015 prices).


The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

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