Total world military expenditure rose to $1,686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4% from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
World military expenditure rose for a second consecutive year to a total of $1,686 billion in 2016 — the first consecutive annual increase since 2011, when spending reached its peak of $1,699 billion. Trends and patterns in military expenditure continue to vary considerably between regions. Spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East (based on countries for which data is available), South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
US sees highest spending
The United States remains the country with the highest annual military expenditure in the world. US military spending grew by 1.7% between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion.
Military expenditure by China, which was the second largest spender in 2016, increased by 5.4% to $215 billion, a much lower rate of growth than in previous years.
Russia increased its spending by 5.9% in 2016 to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender.
Saudi Arabia was the third largest spender in 2015 but dropped to fourth position in 2016. Spending by Saudi Arabia fell by 30% in 2016 to $63.7 billion, despite its continued involvement in regional wars. India’s military expenditure grew by 8.5% in 2016 to $55.9 billion, making it the fifth largest spender.
An end to a trend?
The growth in US military expenditure in 2016 may signal the end of a trend of decreases in spending, which resulted from the economic crisis and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. US spending in 2016 remained 20% lower than its peak in 2010.
“Despite continuing legal restraints on the overall US budget, increases in military spending were agreed upon by Congress,” said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director, SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. “Future spending patterns remain uncertain due to the changing political situation in the USA.”
Growing threat perceptions
Military expenditure in Western Europe rose for the second consecutive year and was up by 2.6% in 2016. There were spending increases in all but three countries in Western Europe. Italy recorded the most notable increase, with spending rising by 11% between 2015 and 2016.
The countries with the largest relative increases in military spending between 2015 and 2016 are in Central Europe. Overall spending in Central Europe grew by 2.4% in 2016.
“The growth in spending by many countries in Central Europe can be partly attributed to the perception of Russia posing a greater threat,” said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher, SIPRI AMEX programme. “This is despite the fact that Russia’s spending in 2016 was only 27% of the combined total of European NATO members.”
Expenditure falls in oil-exporting countries
“Falling oil revenue and associated economic problems attached to the oil-price shock has forced many oil-exporting countries to reduce military spending,” said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher, SIPRI AMEX programme. “For example, between 2015 and 2016 Saudi Arabia had the biggest absolute decrease in spending of $25.8 billion.”
The largest cuts in military expenditure in 2016 related to falling national oil revenues were in Venezuela (–56 per cent), South Sudan (–54 per cent), Azerbaijan (–36 per cent), Iraq (–36 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (–30 per cent).