World military expenditure totalled $1.75 trillion in 2013, a fall of 1.9 per cent in real terms since 2012, according to figures released today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The fall in the global total comes from decreases in Western countries, led by the United States, and despite increases in all other regions. In fact, military spending in the rest of the world excluding the USA increased by 1.8 per cent.
The next three highest spenders—China, Russia and Saudi Arabia—all made substantial increases, with Saudi Arabia leapfrogging the United Kingdom, Japan and France to become the world’s fourth largest military spender. China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are among the 23 countries around the world that have more than doubled their military expenditure since 2004.
The fall in US spending in 2013, by 7.8 per cent, is the result of the end of the war in Iraq, the beginning of the drawdown from Afghanistan, and the effects of automatic budget cuts passed by the US Congress in 2011. Meanwhile, austerity policies continued to determine trends in Western and Central Europe and in other Western countries.
‘The increase in military spending in emerging and developing countries continues unabated,’ said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure Programme. ‘While in some cases it is the natural result of economic growth or a response to genuine security needs, in other cases it represents a squandering of natural resource revenues, the dominance of autocratic regimes, or emerging regional arms races.’
Military spending in the Middle East increased by 4.0 per cent in 2013, reaching an estimated $150 billion. Saudi Arabia’s spending increased by 14 per cent, to reach $67 billion, possibly due to tensions with Iran but also the desire to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential ‘Arab Spring’ type protests.
Maintaining regime survival in the face of internal opposition is also the likely motive for Bahrain’s 26 per cent increase. However, the largest regional increase was by Iraq (27 per cent), as it continued the rebuilding of its armed forces.
‘Military spending data for Iran, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates are not available for 2013, which means that the estimated regional total is highly uncertain. This reflects the general opacity of military spending in the region, and even where data is available it may not cover all military spending,’ said Dr Perlo-Freeman.
Military spending in Africa increased by 8.3 per cent in 2013, reaching an estimated $44.9 billion. Over two-thirds of the African countries for which data is available increased military spending in 2013. Algeria became the first country in Africa with military spending over $10 billion, an increase of 8.8 per cent since 2012, and of 176 per cent since 2004. Meanwhile, Angola increased its spending by 36 per cent in 2013, to overtake South Africa as the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa, and the second highest on the continent. High oil revenues appear to be a factor driving both Algeria’s and Angola’s military spending increases, according to SIPRI.
Military expenditure in Asia and Oceania rose by 3.6 per cent in 2013, reaching $407 billion. The increase is mostly accounted for by a 7.4 per cent increase by China, whose spending reached an estimated $188 billion. Territorial disputes with China are driving military spending increases in countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
‘Japan’s concerns over China’s growing military power, combined with the Japanese Government’s own nationalist policies, have led to Japan ending its long, gradual decline in military spending. Nevertheless, the largest increase in the region in 2013 was by Afghanistan, by 77 per cent, as it builds up its security forces in preparation from the withdrawal of most foreign troops at the end of 2014,’ said Dr Perlo-Freeman.