Total world military expenditure rose to $1739 billion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (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.
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. 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. 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 per cent to $228 billion in 2017. China’s spending as a share of world military expenditure has risen from 5.8 per cent in 2008 to 13 per cent in 2017. India spent $63.9 billion on its military in 2017, an increase of 5.5 per cent compared with 2016, while South Korea’s spending, at $39.2 billion, rose by 1.7 per cent between 2016 and 2017. Tensions between China and many of its neighbours continue to drive the growth in military spending in Asia.
Spending falls sharply in Russia, but rises in Central and Western Europe. At $66.3 billion, Russia’s military spending in 2017 was 20 per cent 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. 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 per cent, 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 per cent of world spending.
Higher spending by Saudi Arabia drives increase in the Middle East. Military expenditure in the Middle East rose by 6.2 per cent in 2017. Spending by Saudi Arabia increased by 9.2 per cent 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 per cent) and Iraq (22 per cent) 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. In 2017 military expenditure as a share of GDP (known as the ‘military burden’) was highest in the Middle East, at 5.2 per cent. No other region in the world allocated more than 1.8 per cent of GDP to military spending.
The US spending is 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. US military spending in 2018 is set to rise significantly to support increases in military personnel and the modernization