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World

Global military expenditure keeps going up, in spite of the crisis

The annual report of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute says that the world has never spent more on defense, in spite of the global financial crisis.

missiles against a background of a map of the world

Defense spending continues to grow throughout the world

Every year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) issues a report surveying international military expenditure. And if anyone thought that, this time, the financial crisis would have dampened the world's enthusiasm for bringing death and destruction upon their neighbours, they'll be disappointed. Military expenditure went up substantially.

A SIPRI report released on Wednesday estimates expenditure in 2009 amounted globally to 1.5 trillion dollars, 5.9 percent more than in the previous year.

In fact the crisis may have been one of the reasons for the increase. Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, Head of the Military Expenditure Project at SIPRI, says that many countries increased public spending generally in 2009 as a way of boosting demand to combat the recession:

"Although military spending hasn't been a big part of economic stimulus packages, public spending hasn't been cut yet," he said.

USA leads again

A Russian SS21 missile takes off near Kaliningrad

SIPRI welcomes US efforts at nuclear disarmament

Once more, it's the United States which is at the top of the list, with 53 percent of the world's expenditure - an increase of 47 billion dollars. Perlo-Freeman sees little likelihood of any change in the US strategy of absolute dominance, even under President Barack Obama. It's insurance "against any possible eventuality," he said.

But the US was not alone: Almost every region of the world, apart from some small countries in Eastern Europe, has increased military expenditure. Countries with significant natural resources have been particularly energetic. Algeria and Nigeria have doubled their expenditure, Kazakhstan has increased spending by 360 percent, Azerbaijan by nearly 500 percent, the Democratic Republic of Congo by as much 663 percent.

Nuclear progress

Every year SIPRI asks governments directly for their defence spending figures. But they also study national budgets, and call on outside experts to help them, since defence expenditure is often fairly secretive and many projects run over several years.

SIPRI does see some progress towards a serious reduction in the 8,000 nuclear warheads in the world, thanks to Obama's efforts to reach a wide-ranging disarmament and non-proliferation treaty. But even there, the increasing isolation of North Korea and Iran's questionable nuclear program give grounds for pessimism.

A submarine in a harbour

This German submarine is on its way to Greece

German arms trade

Germany has the world's seventh largest expenditure on arms, at $46 billion (which is less than the US increase). Even within Europe, it's not as big a spender as France or Britain. But what Germany and most western European countries have in common is an overall drop in military spending, according to Sam Perlo-Freeman.

"German military spending has been falling gradually," he said. "So Germany like many countries in Western Europe does not perceive any clear conventional threat. And I think most Western European countries do not see the threats that do exist, whether it's climate change or terrorism, as being susceptible to military solutions."

The world's gross domestic product fell by 0.9 percent in 2009, but arms expenditure still went up. A number of countries, including Greece, have said they're going to cut their expenditure this year or next. It seems they can't ignore the financial reality any longer.

Author: Alexander Budde, Stockholm (ml)
Editor: Rob Turner

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