Sanctions force Russia to cut military spending

World military expenditure reached the highest level since the end of the Cold War at $1.739 trillion in 2017 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) military expenditure database.

The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to the substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,’ said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.

Among this interesting data collection, Russia slashed its military spending by around 20 % last year.

Spending falls sharply in Russia

This study shows that despite soaring tensions between Moscow and the West, Russia’s military expenses last year came in at $66.3 billion, 20 % lower than in 2016.

The last time Moscow was forced to cut spending was in 1998 at the height of a massive economic crisis.

As the third largest producer of oil in the world, the 2014 collapse in crude prices hit the Russian economy hard, forcing the value of the ruble down by around 50%. This was accentuated by international sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass area.

“Military modernization remains a priority in Russia, but the military budget has been restricted by economic problems that the country has experienced since 2014  Senior SIPRI researcher Siemon Wezeman

With its involvement in the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, Russia’s armed forces have faced a heavy and expensive workload in recent years.

As a consequence, the Kremlin said in March that Russia would cut its defense budget to less than 3 % of gross domestic product (GDP) within the next five years.

Thus, Russia dropped to fourth place in the ranking of the world’s biggest military spenders, overtaken by Saudi Arabia.

NATO allies = half of world military spending

All 29 NATO allies spent $900 billion on the military in 2017, which accounts for 52 percent of total world spending, SIPRI said.

The United States, which remains the world’s biggest military spender at $610 billion, spent more on its military than the next seven highest-spending nations — China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, France, the U.K. and Japan — combined, according to the study. The USA defense budget stayed largely static in 2016 and 2017, but is expected to jump in 2018 as President Donald Trump’s new budget plan goes into force.

Four of the 15 largest military spenders in the world were Western Europe: France (rank 6), the UK (rank 7), Germany (rank 9) and Italy (rank 12).

Perceived Russian aggression likely drove higher spending in NATO nations, especially the 12% increase among Central European countries.

What about the rest of the world’s military spending?

Second-place China has continued to up its military investment, as its spending rose to 13 % last year from 5.8 % in 2008. The country is currently pursuing a comprehensive modernization of its forces as it seeks to establish itself as a top-tier global power capable of force projection. This in itself has encouraged higher spending by its Asian rivals. Thus, four countries in Asia saw increases in spending between 2008 and 2017 of over 100%: Cambodia (332%), Bangladesh (123%), Indonesia (122%) and China (110%).

In South America, Brazil’s expenditure rose between 2016 and 2017 by 6.3%, which is, perhaps, surprising given the country’s current economic and political turmoil.

In the middle east, Saudi Arabia was by far the largest military spender in the region and was the third largest in the world last year. Turkey’s military expenditure also inscreased, reaching $18.2 billion in 2017, making it the 15th largest spender globally — a 46% increase since 2018.

Finally, military spending in Africa fell in 2017 by 0.5% and made up just 2.5% of global expenditure at $42.6 billion.

 © REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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