By Li Ci
It is predicted that global military spending will maintain a continuous growth trend prior to 2025, according to the latest report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The “contributors” will no longer be confined to traditional military powers, when some small and medium-sized countries will also become robust drivers.
Increased US military expenditure disturbs the international situation
The report indicated that total world military expenditure was $1.822 trillion in 2018, representing an increase of 2.6% from 2017and hitting a record high since 1988.
According to Dr. Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure (AMEX) Programme, the US military expenditure increased by 4.6% to $649 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, “almost equal to the total amount of military budgets of the eight countries ranking behind it.”
She predicted that this trend is expected to continue in the next few years, and the US will still invest huge amounts to purchase arms at least before 2025.
Russian news agency TASS reported that the Trump administration’s new arms purchase policy adopted since 2017, the Pentagon’s large-scale equipment renewal and upgrading plan, as well as the “Endless War” carried out by the US troops overseas, have caused continuous growth in the US military spending.
Especially after Trump launched the plan to “rebuild the military,” the massive purchase of military equipment including F-35 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, the offensive strike UAV MQ-9 Reaper, and the littoral combat ship (LCS), directly result in a sharp increase in military expenditure.
The article published by TASS warned that there would still be a huge room for the US to increase its military budget based on last year’s $649 billion, given that its military spending peaked at $785 billion in 2010.
In the event of emergency, the White House and the Pentagon would probably “break the routine” to increase military expenditure, thus disturbing international security situation and regional military balance.
Russia would be overtaken by more countries in military spending
On the 2018 global military spending list, Russia ranked outside the top five and fell to the sixth position. Its total military spending dropped by 3.5% to $61.4 billion from the previous year, ranking second in terms of decline rate among the top 10 countries with the largest military expenditure.
The report revealed that in 2017 Russia’s military spending declined by 20% year-on-year, and predicted that Russia would improbably increase its military spending by a big margin if its economic situation and international environment don’t see improvements, and Kremlin would be overtaken by more countries in terms of military expenditure in the next five years.
The Russian media reported that the negative growth of Russia’s military spending would not affect the country’s equipment renewal plan, but “weapon programs under research and development would be slowed except for nuclear weapons.”
SIPRI also believes that military modernization is the priority for Russia, and its investment in military modernization still grows substantially, although the total spending drops. The annual growth rate of Russia’s investment in military modernization increased from 4.9% in 2010 to 16% in 2015.
It is predicted that before 2025, the Russian military will purchase 2,300 tanks, 1,200 helicopters, 50 surface combat ships and nearly 30 submarines, with possibly more than 20% of its total military spending used for military modernization.
Central and Eastern Europe may become a new engine for growth
The report believed that those traditional “rich” regions—North Africa and the Middle East—may reduce their passion for military spending. Data show that the two regions’ total military expenditure generally showed a declining trend in 2018.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia cut its military spending by $4.6 billion, ranking first around the world. In North Africa, the military spending of Sudan, Angola and Algeria dropped by 49%, 18% and 6.1%, respectively, resulting in a 5.5% decline in the total military spending of North Africa and a 8.4% decline in that of the entire African continent.
Alexandra Kuimova, a researcher with SIPRI’s Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure (AMEX) Programme, pointed out that due to fluctuations in petroleum prices, rich countries in the Middle East and North Africa will continue to cut their military budgets, and it is unlikely for those former military hotspots to increase military spending at least before 2020 unless the security situation of those regions sees profound changes.
On the contrary, Central and Eastern European countries that showed little interest in expanding military expenditure will probably become a new engine for growth in global military spending in the next few years.
This is because urged by the US, major NATO members such as Germany, France and the UK raised the ratio of defense budgets in GDP. This increased the sense of “insecurity” of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, who then increase their defense budgets accordingly.
For instance, Poland’s military spending rose by 8.9% in real terms, to $11.6 billion in 2018, and Ukraine saw an increase of 21%, growing from $3.6 billion in 2017 to $4.8 billion in 2018. The SIPRI report revealed that countries like Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Romania also increased their military expenditures in 2018.
Small and medium-sized countries are tied to the American chariot
Dr. Nan Tian, a researcher with SIPRI’s Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure (AMEX) Programme, pointed out that some countries with middle-level or lower national strength will probably take the relay baton to drive continuous growth in global military spending.
Abraham Ait, chief editor of Military Watch Magazine, noted that many small and medium-sized countries spare no effort to increase their military expenditure, and the primary reason is that their security interests are tied to the US.
“The lack of security and the desire for hegemony not only stimulate the US itself to increase its military spending, but also force many other countries to join the race,” Abraham said, adding that “of 28 NATO's members, 24 increased their defense budgets in 2018 at an average growth rate of 5.4%, most of which are small and medium-sized countries.”
An American investigation agency predicted that by 2025 developing countries (especially those in Asia) will gradually replace developed countries in Western Europe and North America to become “major investors” in global military realm.
For instance, after the US abolished its military embargo, Vietnam has taken active action to import various kinds of military equipment. It is predicted that Indonesia will increase the ratio of its defense budget from 5% to 6% before 2020.
The Philippines and Indonesia plan to invest huge amounts in the field of national defense in the five years to come, with a possible increase of 20% and 40%, respectively.
(The article was published on the Chinese Defense Newspaper on June 21, 2019)