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China, Iran military spending up; Russian spending down for first time since 1998

Russian President Vladimir Putin (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)

China posted the world’s largest increase in military spending in 2017, while Russia registered the sharpest decline, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report Wednesday.

Overall, world military expenditures rose to $1.739 trillion in 2017, a rise of 1.1 percent.

Russia’s military spending fell for the first time since 1998, dropping by $13.9 billion. The drop comes after four years of economic sanctions in response to Moscow’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine.

“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, a military analyst at SIPRI.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has invested heavily in its military during the past 15 years to modernize a force that languished in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Investments have ranged from modernizing the country’s nuclear arsenal to building up the ground forces.

While Russia’s spending is trending downward, it still ranks fourth overall at $66.3 billion, which is more than every non-U.S. NATO member.

The United States continues to spend far more than all its potential adversaries, investing more in its military than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.

China, which ranks second globally, increased its military spending by 5.6 percent to an estimated $228 billion in 2017. Beijing’s global share of military expenditures now stands at 13 percent, up from 5.8 percent in 2008, the report said.

Saudi Arabia increased its defense spending by 9.2 percent, moving past Russia as the third top spender with a budget of $69.4 billion. The increase comes amid rising tensions with Iran, which also boosted spending by 19 percent.

In Europe, where the U.S. has been critical of NATO allies that underinvest in defense, military spending also has risen. Central European countries closer to Russia posted an overall increase of 12 percent, compared with a 1.7 percent rise in Western Europe.

Total military expenditures by all 29 NATO members was $900 billion last year, accounting for 52 percent of world spending, according to SIPRI. At $610 billion, U.S. military spending was unchanged between 2016 and 2017.

“The downward trend in U.S. military spending that started in 2010 has come to an end,” said Aude Fleurant, a SIPRI analyst. “U.S. military spending in 2018 is set to rise significantly to support increases in military personnel and the modernization of conventional and nuclear weapons.”


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