Global military expenditures are up, driven by US, China

The two countries reportedly account for almost half of world's military spending, a new report shows

Global military spending is continuing to increase, growing for the second year in a row and reaching the highest levels since reliable global figures became available in 1988. That's the finding of a new report out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which estimated that global spending on defense hit $1.82 trillion in 2018, up 2.6% on the previous year.

Sixty percent of that global military spending came from five countries: The United States, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France. Russia and the United Kingdom were the other two countries to spend $50bn or more on defense. From those the United States - which retains its title as by far world's biggest military spender - raised its spending for the first time in seven years to $649bn in 2018, meaning that the country has spent almost as much as the next eight countries on the list combined.

Along with China, which came in second with $250bn, the two countries altogether make up half the world's military spending, expending as much as the rest of the world combined. In fact the US and China's contest for primacy, as well as the tensions between Asian countries, are considered the reason that drove total global military spending up 2.6% from 2017, researchers said.

"The spending boom is driven, above all, by the contest between America and China for primacy in Asia," The Economist also summarised the report. America's increase "reflected the Trump administration's embrace of what it calls 'great power competition' with Russia and China - requiring fancier, pricier weapons - in place of the inconclusive guerrilla wars it had fought since 2001."

Among the biggest spenders, however, there are other ups and downs as well. Military spending in Turkey, for example, increased by 24% in 2018 to $19bn, the highest annual percentage increase among the world’s top 15 military spenders.The overall defence spending in Central Europe was also up 12%, "largely due to growing perceptions of a threat from Russia," researchers said.

"Spending by Poland rose by 8.9% in 2018 to $11.6bn, while Ukraine's spending was up by 21% to $4.8bn. Spending by Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania also grew (ranging from 18% to 24%) in 2018," the report read.

But at the same time, Russia fell out of the list of top five spenders for the first time since 2006, decreasing its military spending by 3.5% from 2017. Outside Europe, Saudi Arabia also cut significantly its spending by 6.5%. This drove military spending in Middle Eastern countries to also fall by 1.9%

"The decrease in the Middle East has to do with Saudi Arabia," Tian said, which saw cuts due to "debt and overspending."

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