WASHINGTON — Global military expenditures topped $1.6 trillion in 2015, an increase of about 1 percent from the previous year, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
That represents the first increase in global military spending since 2011, with growth coming from Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and a few key Gulf powers, as well a slower defense drawdown in the US than in previous years.
SIPRI’s military expenditure report is released annually to track overall defense spending on a global scale. (To coincide with the release of the report, SIPRI is hosting an event on Tuesday at the Washington, DC-based Stimson Center, where the author of this piece will be a panelist.)
The group defines “military expenditures” as current and capital spending from each nation’s armed forces, including peacekeeping forces; defense ministries and other government agencies that deal with defense projects; paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations, and military space activities.
The data is based on open sources, including a questionnaire that is sent out annually to governments; as a result, some totals, most notably China’s, are estimates rather than concrete figures.
Unsurprisingly, the US remains the top military spender at $596 billion, nearly tripling China’s estimated total of $215 billion. However, the US did drop by 2.4 percent from 2014 figures.
Saudi Arabia ($87.2 billion) moved past Russia ($66.4 billion) for the third spot, a move the researches attribute to the falling cost of the Rubble. Similarly, the drop in value of the euro let the United Kingdom ($55.5 billion) flip spots with France ($50.9 billion) at fifth overall and seventh overall, respectively.
The report highlights the impact of falling oil prices on defense spending, noting that it led to “an abrupt reduction in military spending” in countries such as Angola, Chad, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Oman, South Sudan and Venezuela. Oil revenue-dependent giants like Russia and Saudi Arabia bucked that trend in 2016, but the SIPRI authors expect both nations spending to drop in 2016.
Regionally, spending in Asia and Oceania rose 5.4 percent, at an estimated $438 billion — 49 percent of which comes from China. China’s spending more than quadrupled that of India, the region’s second-largest military investor, and it continues a trend of major growth in military spending in the region, which has increased by 64 percent since 2006.
European military spending increased 1.7 percent in 2015 to $328 billion, driven largely by Eastern Europe, which includes Russia and those nations perturbed by Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory in 2014. In fact, Eastern European spending increased by 90 percent from 2006.
Military spending from Latin America and the Caribbean actually dropped by 2.9 percent in 2015, to $67.0 billion, while African expenditures fell by 5.3 percent in 2015, with an estimated $37.0 billion. The researchers decided not to publish a regional estimate for the Middle East, as “data for 2015 is unavailable for several countries.”