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Fueled by conflicts, global military spending hits new all-time high

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Global military spending registered its steepest annual increase in over a decade in 2023, a leading think tank on conflict and defense said Monday, as wars and rising tensions fueled expenditures around the world.

Total spending grew nearly 7% from 2022 to $2.43 trillion, the biggest year-over-year rise since 2009, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Military expenditures rose globally with particularly large increases in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, SIPRI said.

“Total military spending is at an all-time high … and for the first time since 2009, we saw spending increase across all five geographical regions,” Nan Tian, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The steepest increase since 2009 is “a reflection of the deterioration of peace and security around the world. There’s really not a region in the world where things have gotten better,” Tian said.

The United States, China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia were the top five spenders, respectively.

The continuation of the war in Ukraine led to an increase in spending by Ukraine, Russia and “a whole host” of European countries, Tian said.

Russia boosted spending by 24%, reaching $109 billion in 2023, according to SIPRI’s estimates.

Since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, the country’s military spending has risen by 57%.

Limited room

Ukraine’s military spending rose by 51%, reaching $64.8 billion, but the country also received $35 billion in military aid, of which the majority came from the U.S.

“Combined, this aid and Ukraine’s own military spending were equivalent to about 91% of Russian spending,” the think tank said.

Tian noted that while Moscow’s and Kyiv’s budgets were relatively close in 2023, Ukraine’s military spending equaled 37% of its gross domestic product (GDP) and 58% of all government spending.

In contrast, in Russia, which has a larger economy, military spending amounted to just 5.9% of its GDP.

“So the room for Ukraine to increase its spending is now very limited,” Tian said.

SIPRI said NATO member countries’ spending totaled 55% of the world’s expenditure.

“For European NATO states, the past two years of war in Ukraine have fundamentally changed the security outlook,” SIPRI researcher Lorenzo Scarazzato said.

“This shift in threat perceptions is reflected in growing shares of GDP being directed toward military spending, with the NATO target of 2% increasingly being seen as a baseline rather than a threshold to reach.”

NATO member states are expected to set aside at least 2% of gross domestic product for defense expenditure by the alliance.

Türkiye’s spending jumps 37%

In Europe, Poland saw the largest increase in military spending, up 75% to $31.6 billion.

Germany, Europe’s top economy, once again ranked seventh among the countries with the highest expenditure.

“Germany has often been bashed because it has not yet met the 2% of GDP goal in NATO,” Scarazzato said.

“We still need to keep in mind that Germany is the second major military spender after the U.K. Germany’s current GDP percentage is 1.5 %, but in 2023, we saw it commit to reaching 2% from 2024 onward.

“So I think we’re seeing how the narrative is changing in Germany,” he added.

Türkiye’s military spending rose by 37% year-over-year to $15.8 billion in 2023.​​​​​, the think tank said. It rose one place from 2022 to rank 22nd in the world.

The nation’s expenditure climbed 59% between 2014 and 2023, SIPRI said.

According to the report, Türkiye allocated 1.5% of its GDP to military spending, while its share of global expenditures was 0.6%.

Spending also rose across the Middle East, where Israel – the region’s second-largest spender – saw a 24% increase to $27.5 billion in 2023 – mainly driven by the country’s offensive in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest spender, also upped its spending by 4.3% to an estimated $75.8 billion.

Worsening tensions

The U.S. – which spends more on its military than any other nation – increased spending by 2.3% to $916 billion.

China boosted spending on its military for the 29th straight year, raising it by another 6% to an estimated $296 billion.

Beijing’s military buildup and worsening tensions in the region have prompted its neighbors to dedicate more funds to their militaries.

Japan spent $50.2 billion last year and Taiwan $16.6 billion, an increase of 11% for both countries.

The world’s fourth largest spender, India, meanwhile hiked spending by 4.3% to $83.6 billion.

In Central America and the Caribbean, spending increases were instead driven by other struggles, such as fighting organized crime.

For instance, the Dominican Republic upped spending by 14% in response to worsening gang violence in neighboring Haiti spilling over the border.

Africa also saw military budgets swell.

The Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled its spending ( 105%) to $794 million, the largest percentage increase of any nation, as tensions grew with neighboring Rwanda.

With an increase of 78%, South Sudan saw the second-largest increase, to $1.1 billion.

With the war in Ukraine being “nowhere close to an end,” as well as the current situation in the Middle East and heightened tensions in Asia, Tian said he believed countries were likely to continue boosting their militaries.

“The expectation is that this increasing trend will continue for at least a few years to come,” he said.

Source: DailySabah

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