Global defence spending ticks up

Global military spending might have ticked upwards by 0.4 per cent to almost 1.7 trillion dollars, reported a leading arms tracking group Monday, but it’s still not clear if that’s enough for everyone’s standards.

Amid worries about terrorism and conflict, several countries – such as the United States, China and Russia – saw big leaps in their defence spending during 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That’s despite a drop in the number of conflicts in just about every part of the world but North Africa.

But such huge outlays are mostly the remit of the world’s largest nations. Smaller nations, many of which also saw spending boosts, trailed far behind the biggest spenders in overall money spent.

That could turn into a diplomatic problem. The trans-Atlantic treaty alliance NATO has long been after its members to honour a commitment to spend 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence spending.

But the new data from SIPRI confirms what most everyone already knew: Most NATO members do not meet that goal.

Indeed, according to the Monday paper, the United States, Estonia, France and Greece are the only members of the 27-country alliance to hit that figure.

The requirement is a source of tension, especially with US President Donald Trump publicly declaring his unhappiness about the other country’s stingy defence budgets.

Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain were the big laggers. Germany was last, spending only 1.2 per cent of GDP on defence.

The topic of defence spending is expected to be a big topic at a NATO summit next month. Countries like Germany have argued that the focus on defence spending is too specific, pointing out that foreign and development aid should also be factored in.

But those arguments might not go far with the United States, which saw spending increase by 1.7 per cent to 611 billion dollars, its first increase after years of falling spending.

That puts US spending at three times the amount of China, which ranked second on the list, with an estimated 215 billion dollars of defence spending for 2016.

Russia came in third place, thanks to an unexpected burst of spending. That helped it pull ahead of Saudi Arabia, which saw spending decline, most likely because its economy has been hurt by the drop in oil prices.

India was in fifth place, with spending of 55.9 billion dollars. Next came France and Britain.

But the overall scores did not necessarily correspond with growth rates. China had the fastest rate of growth, at 118 per cent. Russia was in second place, at 87 per cent.

The final figure for overall defence spending in 2016 was 1,686 billion dollars, reported SIPRI.(dpa/NAN)