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US, China Lead in Defence Budget; Russia No More in Top 5: SIPRI Report

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) ranked Russia sixth in the 2018 annual update of the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database which US and China claimed the top two spots. This is for the first time since 2006 that Russia was out of the top five of countries with the biggest defense budget.

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“Russian military spending was $61.4 billion in 2018, which accounted for 88% of East European military spending,” the Swedish think tank said. According to SIPRI data, Russia’s major military modernization program, which started in 2010, led to significant annual increases in military spending (between 4.9% and 16%) through 2015.

Starting from 2016, Russia’s military budget has trended downwards. However, due to a one-off government debt repayment of almost $11.8 billion to Russian arms manufacturers in 2016, spending rose by 7.2%; without this payment, Russian military spending would have fallen by 11% The payment also explains a large part of the sharp 19% drop in 2017: excluding the repayment, spending would have decreased by 2.8 per cent. Russia’s spending fell again in 2018 (by 3.5%), but it is still 27% higher than in 2009.

Record spending by US and China

World military expenditure is estimated to have been $1822 billion in 2018. It was 2.6% higher in real terms than in 2017 and 5.4% higher than in 2009. Global military spending has been gradually rising following a post-2009 low in 2014. It is now 76% higher than the post-cold war low in 1998.

The world military burden – global military expenditure as a share of global gross domestic product (GDP) – fell to 2.1% in 2018. Military spending per capita increased from $230 in 2017 to $239 in 2018.

The five biggest spenders in 2018 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France, which together accounted for 60 per cent of global military spending.

“In 2018 the USA and China accounted for half of the world’s military spending,” said Nan Tian, a researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) program. “The higher level of world military expenditure in 2018 is mainly the result of significant increases in spending by these two countries.”

For the first time since 2010, US military spending grew by 4.6%, to reach $649 billion in 2018. The US spent almost as much on its military in 2018 as the next eight largest-spending countries combined.

“The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programmes under the Trump administration,” said Aude Fleurant, the director of the SIPRI AMEX programme.

China, the second-largest spender in the world, increased its military expenditure by 5%, to $250 billion in 2018. This was the 24th consecutive year of increase in Chinese military expenditure. Its spending in 2018 was almost 10 times higher than in 1994 and accounted for 14 per cent of the world’s total.

“Growth in Chinese military spending tracks the country’s overall economic growth,’ Tian said. “China has allocated 1.9 per cent of its GDP to the military every year since 2013.”

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