Russian military spending drops, US ends downward trend: analysis

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

Russian military spending last year dropped for the first time since 1998 as Moscow tightens its budget, according to a report Wednesday from an international think tank.

“Military modernization remains a priority in Russia, but the military budget has been restricted by economic problems that the country has experienced since 2014,” Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms and military expenditure (AMEX) program, said in the report.

In 2014, Russia was slapped with international sanctions after its military intervention in Ukraine and had to contend with collapsing oil prices.

Meanwhile, a downward trend of U.S. military spending has come to an end, while China had the biggest year-over-year increase of any country, according to the think tank’s annual analysis of global military spending.

Overall, military spending across the global rose 1.1 percent in 2017 to $1.739 trillion, according to the institute.

The institute’s figures cover all government spending on military forces and activities, including salaries and benefits; operational expenses; arms and equipment purchases; military construction; research and development; and central administration, command and support.

In Russia, military spending in 2017 was $66.3 billion, a 20 percent decrease from 2016, according to the report.

Russia dropped to fourth overall in the world for military spending, now behind Saudi Arabia, which increased its spending by 9.2 percent in 2017. Still, Russia spends more than every NATO member besides the United States.

The United States continued to have the highest military expenditure in the world, outspending the next seven highest-spending countries combined, according to the institute.

At $610 billion, U.S. military spending was flat from 2016 to 2017, but it shows “the downward trend in U.S. military spending that started in 2010 has come to an end,” Aude Fleurant, director of the AMEX program, said in the report.

“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,” Fleurant added.

In China, which ranks second globally, military spending was $228 billion in 2017, according to the report. That’s an increase of 5.6 percent compared to 2016.

The Middle East also saw significant increases in military spending. Saudi Arabia’s 9.2 percent increase put it at $69.4 billion, while spending in Iran increased by 19 percent and in Iraq by 22 percent. 

“Despite low oil prices, armed conflict and rivalries throughout the Middle East are driving the rise in military spending in the region,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the institute’s AMEX program, said in the report.

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