Global military spending rose to a record last year, spurred by a policy U-turn in Europe where governments boosted capabilities by the most since the end of the Cold War in the wake of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine.
Defense expenditure increased by 3.7% in real terms to reach a record high of $2.24 trillion in 2022, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, said on Monday. About half the annual increase was due to Ukraine’s ballooning military budget, according to data for the eastern European country that excludes foreign aid.
Arms budgets are expanding across Europe in response to Russia’s aggression at the same time as tensions in East Asia are prompting larger outlays in that part of the world.
“The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world,” SIPRI senior researcher Nan Tian said in a statement. “States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future.”
In another sign of how the world is sliding back into a situation last seen during the Cold War, military expenditure in central and western European countries exceeded the 1989 level for the first time.
Finland and Sweden were among the countries that increased such spending the most. Finland’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets contributed to a 36% jump in Russia’s neighbor that joined the NATO defense bloc this month as its 31st member. Sweden is still awaiting entry into the alliance.
Defense budgets of existing NATO members, meanwhile, increased by 0.9% from 2021, as outlays declined in countries including Italy, Turkey and Greece. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia increased its expenditure by an estimated 16% to become the fifth largest spender globally. Qatar, which has expanded its armed forces and is upgrading its arms inventories, boosted outlays by 27%.
The U.S. remains the largest spender in the world by a large margin, as its military budget is bigger than those of all other countries that make the top-10 list of the biggest weapons’ buyers combined, according to SIPRI’s estimate. In 2014, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea put an end to a brief period of shrinking defense budgets, with global expenditure growing for eight straight years since.
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