West, Russia increase military spending, SIPRI reports

ANGELOS BERBERAKIS
ISTANBUL
Published 25.04.2017 01:03

Total world military expenditure rose to $1,686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent from 2015 according to figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday. Defense spending in North America increased for the first time since 2010 while it also grew in Western Europe for the second consecutive year. Military spending reached its peak in 2011 with $1,699 billion. The 2016 spike is the first consecutive year increase since 2011 as well. There were, however, groups of countries that had to decrease their military spending and causes to both increases and decreases vary significantly by region.

The United States of America remains the world top military spender, accounting for about 36 percent of total world expenditure. U.S. military spending increased by 1.7 percent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion.

Chinese military expenditure, the second largest for 2016 with 13 percent of the total, increased by 5.4 percent to $215 billion, a relatively lower rate of growth compared to earlier years.

The Russian Federation increased its spending by 5.9 percent to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender at 4.1 percent, overtaking Saudi Arabia, which dropped to fourth position in 2016 at 3.8 percent after cutting its military budget by 30 percent in 2016 to $63.7 billion, despite it being involved in regional wars, more notably in Yemen.

India's expenditure grew by 8.5 percent to $55.9 billion, making it the fifth largest spender at 3.3 percent.

U.S. military spending under President Donald Trump will probably increase more as that was one of his campaign promises. He pledged to modernize and give the "depleted" U.S. military forces the equipment they need and not the equipment they get for political reasons.

"We could've rebuilt our country twice with the money ($6 trillion) we spent in the Middle East" Trump said during the campaign trail.

"Despite continuing legal restraints on the overall U.S. budget, increases in military spending were agreed upon by Congress," said Dr. Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure program. "Future spending patterns remain uncertain due to the changing political situation in the U.S."

U.S. military expenditure growth in 2016 is a throwback from a trend of relative yearly decreases as a result of oversees wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as economic recession.

European military expenditure grew for a second year by 2.6 percent, with Italy making the largest raise by 11 percent, accounting for 1.7 percent of world spending.

"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 program. "This is despite the fact that Russia's spending in 2016 was only 27 percent of the combined total of European NATO members."

Regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, then-candidate Trump had called it an "obsolete" organization that was "not doing enough to tackle terrorism." Since then, NATO has gone through some reformation and President Trump met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House, where Trump declared that NATO is "no longer obsolete" but he did call out its members for not spending the agreed upon amount of 2 percent of GDP, saying particularly that Germany "owes vast sums."

Only five of NATO's 28 members spend 2 percent GDP or higher to the alliance. The U.S. comes in first with 3.61 percent. Surprisingly, Greece comes in second with 2.38 percent, Britain third with 2.21, Estonia fourth with 2.16 percent and finally Poland with 2 percent. States like Germany, France and Italy spend 1.19, 1.78 and 1.11 percent respectively. Turkey, which has the second largest army in the alliance, spends 1.56 percent on NATO.

Many oil-exporting countries, such as Saudi Arabia and South Sudan, cut their military budgets significantly, not for political reasons but due to falling oil prices as well as horrid economic conditions, such as in the case of Venezuela. Only a handful of oil-exporters will continue with their planned 2016 spending, among them Norway, Algeria and Iran.

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