World military expenditures totaled $1.75 trillion in 2012, registering a decline of 0.5% in real terms year-on-year for the first time since 1998, according to data released last week by a Sweden-based security think-tank.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) attributed the fall to austerity policies implemented in the majority of developed countries due to the global economic crisis that began in 2008.
SIPRI noted, however, that deep defense cuts in the United States and other NATO countries, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan were largely offset by significant increases elsewhere in the world, including Russia and China.
This could be a potential “shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging regions,” SIPRI said in a comprehensive annual update to its Military Expenditure Database.
Military spending in the United States fell in 2012 by 6% to $682 billion, mostly as a result of reduced war spending in light of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and projected budget cuts linked to the 2011 Budget Control Act.
However, the United States remains the world’s largest military spender, accounting for 39% of the global expenditures.
Meanwhile, China, the second largest spender in 2012, increased its expenditure by 7.8% ($11.5 billion) to $166 billion, while Russia, the third largest spender, increased its expenditure by 16% ($12.3 billion) to $90.7 billion, according to SIPRI estimates.
Recent significant increases in Russia’s annual military spending are attributed to the implementation of an ambitious rearmament program, which will see the share of modern weaponry reach 30% by 2015 and total 70% by 2020.
“Projected increases will take military spending in Russia from 4.4% of the GDP in 2012 to 4.8% in 2015,” SIPRI said.
SIPRI also reported increases in other parts of the world, most notably in North Africa and the Middle East, with 7.8% and 8.4% hikes in 2012, respectively.
Overall, “the global total was still higher in real terms than the peak near the end of the Cold War,” SIPRI said.