Military expenditure was down slightly in 2017, but higher than a decade ago as world military spending reached its highest level since the end of the Cold War, new research has revealed.
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), African military spending was down by 0.5% to an estimated $42.6 billion in 2017, or 2.5% of global military spending.
“This continued the downward trend from the post-Cold War peak reached in 2014, although the decrease tapered off in 2017. Despite three consecutive ears of decreases, military expenditure in Africa was still 28% higher in 2017 than in 2008,” SIPRI noted.
Military spending in North Africa fell by 1.9% between 2016 and 2017 to an estimated $21.1 billion. This was the first annual decrease in military spending in the subregion since 2006. Nonetheless, spending in 2017 was 105% higher than in 2008.
Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, decreased its military expenditure by 5.2% between 2016 and 2017 to $10.1 billion. This was the first annual decrease in its military spending since 2003 and only the second annual decrease since 1995, SIPRI reports. “The decline in Algeria’s military expenditure in 2017 was probably related to low oil and gas revenues in recent years.”
According to SIPRI, military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 amounted to $21.6 billion, up 0.9% from 2016 but 6.8% lower than in 2008. “A substantial surge in Sudan’s military expenditure in 2017 (by 35 % to $4.4 billion)—mainly due to intensified fighting between the Sudanese Government and rebels—drove the upward trend, but this was partly counteracted by decreases by three of the four largest spenders in the subregion: Angola, Nigeria and South Africa. Principal of those was the continued drop in Angola’s military expenditure (by 16%) as part of government spending cuts. While Angola was the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 with 26% of the subregional total, it fell to third in 2017 (with 14% of the total), behind Sudan and South Africa.
“Nigeria’s military expenditure fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, by 4.2% to $1.6 billion, despite continued military operations against Boko Haram. Military spending in South Africa, the second largest spender in sub-Saharan Africa, has stabilized at around $3.6 billion per annum since 2012. Its military spending decreased marginally in 2017, by 1.9%,” SIPRI said.
There were also notable cuts in military spending in 2017 in South Sudan (–56 %), Chad (–33 %), Mozambique (–21 %) and Côte d’Ivoire (–19%. The decline in Côte d’Ivoire’s military spending, the first annual decrease since 2013, was the result of the sharp drop in world prices for cocoa, the country’s main export. In South Sudan, despite the ongoing conflict, the worsening economic conditions led to further reductions in military spending.
Overall, total world military expenditure rose to $1 739 billion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1% in real terms from 2016, according to new figures from SIPRI.
China’s military expenditure rose again in 2017, continuing an upward trend in spending that has lasted for more than two decades. Russia’s military spending fell for the first time since 1998, while spending by the United States remained constant for the second successive year.
“Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern,” said Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board. “It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world.”
After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military expenditure rose again in 2017. Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2% of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $230 per person.
“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. “At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region.”
China leads continued spending increase in Asia and Oceania
Military expenditure in Asia and Oceania rose for the 29th successive year. China, the second largest spender globally, increased its military spending by 5.6% to $228 billion in 2017. China’s spending as a share of world military expenditure has risen from 5.8% in 2008 to 13% in 2017. India spent $63.9 billion on its military in 2017, an increase of 5.5% compared with 2016, while South Korea’s spending, at $39.2 billion, rose by 1.7% between 2016 and 2017. “Tensions between China and many of its neighbours continue to drive the growth in military spending in Asia,” said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme.
Spending falls sharply in Russia, but rises in Central and Western Europe
At $66.3 billion, Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20% lower than in 2016, the first annual decrease since 1998. “Military modernization remains a priority in Russia, but the military budget has been restricted by economic problems that the country has experienced since 2014,” said Siemon Wezeman.
Driven, in part, by the perception of a growing threat from Russia, military spending in both Central and Western Europe increased in 2017, by 12 and 1.7%, respectively. Many European states are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and, within that framework, have agreed to increase their military spending. Total military spending by all 29 NATO members was $900 billion in 2017, accounting for 52% of world spending.
Higher spending by Saudi Arabia drives increase in the Middle East
Military expenditure in the Middle East rose by 6.2% in 2017. Spending by Saudi Arabia increased by 9.2% in 2017 following a fall in 2016. With spending of $69.4 billion, Saudi Arabia had the third highest military expenditure in the world in 2017. Iran (19%) and Iraq (22%) also recorded significant increases in military spending in 2017.
“Despite low oil prices, armed conflict and rivalries throughout the Middle East are driving the rise in military spending in the region,” said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme. In 2017 military expenditure as a share of GDP (known as the ‘military burden’) was highest in the Middle East, at 5.2%. No other region in the world allocated more than 1.8% of GDP to military spending.
US spending no longer in decline
The United States continues to have the highest military expenditure in the world. In 2017 the USA spent more on its military than the next seven highest-spending countries combined. At $610 billion, US military spending was unchanged between 2016 and 2017. “The downward trend in US military spending that started in 2010 has come to an end,” said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI AMEX programme. “US military spending in 2018 is set to rise significantly to support increases in military personnel and the modernization of conventional and nuclear weapons.”