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World military expenditure soars to $1.82 trillion

Reuters | Updated on April 29, 2019 Published on April 29, 2019

US and China are committing huge sums to their armed forces   -  Reuters

Global military expenditure reached its highest level last year since the end of the Cold War, fuelled by increased spending in the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, a leading defence think-tank said on Monday.

In its annual report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said overall global military spending in 2018 hit $1.82 trillion, up 2.6 per cent on the previous year.

First increase

That is the highest figure since 1988, when such data first became available as the Cold War began winding down. The US’ military spending rose 4.6 per cent last year to reach $649 billion, leaving it still by far the world’s biggest spender. China, the second biggest spender, saw its military expenditure rise 5 per cent to $250 billion last year, the 24th consecutive annual increase.

With President Donald Trump committed to strong national defence despite reducing US troop numbers in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, 2018 marked the first increase in the country’s military spending since 2010, SIPRI said. Trump’s defence spending request to Congress this year is the largest ever in dollar terms before adjustment for inflation.

The other top spenders are, in declining order, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea. Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition battling Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, was the biggest per capita spender on defence, just ahead of the US.

NATO target

Trump has criticised some of Washington’s NATO allies in Europe, especially Germany, for failing to meet the alliance’s spending target of two per cent of gross domestic product.

Britain and France, the two largest economies in Europe, spent 1.8 per cent and 2.3 per cent of GDP, respectively, on defence in 2018.

Military expenditure by all the 29 NATO members amounted to just over half the global spending, SIPRI added.

Russia, which flexed its military muscles with its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and intervention in the Syrian conflict, dropped out of the list of the top five spenders in 2018 following an annual decline of 3.5 per cent.

Despite a sustained drive to upgrade and modernise Russia’s armed forces, President Vladimir Putin has had to tighten purse strings following a sharp decline in global oil prices and the need to prioritise some domestic spending programmes.

Russian spending recorded its first annual decline in nearly two decades in 2017, with a fall of 20 per cent in real terms, SIPRI estimates released last year showed.

Published on April 29, 2019
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