Military spending hits record $2.1 trillion
Global military spending rose again in 2021, setting new records as Russia continued to beef up its military prior to its invasion of Ukraine, researchers said yesterday, predicting the trend would continue in Europe in particular.
Despite the economic fallout of the global COVID pandemic, countries around the world increased their arsenals, with global military spending rising by 0.7 percent last year, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
“In 2021 military spending rose for the seventh consecutive time to reach $2.1 trillion. That is the highest figure we have ever had,” Diego Lopes da Silva, senior researcher at Sipri, told AFP.
Russia’s spending grew by 2.9 percent -- the third year of consecutive growth -- to $65.9 billion.
Defense spending accounted for 4.1 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP), “much higher than the world average”, and making Moscow the fifth largest spender in the world, Lopes da Silva said.
High oil and gas revenues helped the country boost military expenditure. Lopes da Silva noted that Russia saw a sharp uptick in spending towards the end of the year.
Whether Russia would be able to sustain its spending was difficult to predict, Lopes da Silva said, due to the wave of sanctions imposed by the West in response to the aggression in Ukraine.
On the other side, Ukraine’s military spending has risen by 72 percent since the annexation of Crimea. While spending declined by over eight percent in 2021 to $5.9 billion, it still accounted for 3.2 percent of Ukraine’s GDP.
As tensions have increased in Europe, more NATO countries have stepped up spending.
Eight members countries last year reached the targeted two percent of GDP for spending, one fewer than the year before but up from only two in 2014.Lopes da Silva expects spending in Europe to continue to grow.
The U.S., which far outspent any other nation with $801 billion, actually went against the global trend and decreased its spending by 1.4 percent in 2021.
Over the past decade, U.S. spending on research and development has risen by 24 percent while arms procurement has gone down by 6.4 percent.
China, the world’s second largest military spender at an estimated $293 billion, boosted its expenditure by 4.7 percent.
The country’s military buildup has in turn caused its regional neighbors to beef up their military budgets, with Japan adding $7 billion, an increase of 7.3 percent, the highest annual increase since 1972.
Australia also spent four percent more on its military, reaching $31.8 billion.India, the world’s third largest spender at $76.6 billion, increased funding by a more modest 0.9 percent in 2021.
The U.K. took over the number four spot, with a three percent increase in military spending to $68.4 billion, replacing Saudi Arabia which instead decreased spending by 17 percent to an estimated $55.6 billion.