With battles raging in Congress over the Pentagon’s proposed budget cuts, a new report says the gap in military spending between the U.S. and the rest of the world is narrowing, with Washington’s erstwhile foes — China and Russia — splurging on new weapons systems and several countries from Saudi Arabia to Algeria also spending billions on upgrading their arsenals, according to the yearly rankings of world military spending compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI. “There is a shift globally from the West to other countries,” says Elisabeth Skons, SIPRI’s Africa program director. “It is very much related to economic-growth rates rather than security-related factors.”
SIPRI’s report breaks down country by country the $1.75 trillion (yes, trillion) that the world spent in 2012 on military budgets and reveals some startling figures. Russia’s military spending rose 16% last year alone, and China, which is now the world’s second biggest military buyer after the U.S., increased its spending by 7.8%. Among the Middle Eastern countries that disclose their military budgets, several have hugely ramped up their military capabilities, using rocketing oil revenue to buy high-priced fighter jets and missile systems. Saudi Arabia increased its military spending by 12% in 2012, and Oman’s increase was a whopping 51%.
Despite that, military spending globally dropped for the first time in 15 years. Sadly, SIPRI says the drop does not imply a more peaceful time in the world: the decrease is largely due to the U.S. ending its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting its contingency-operations budgets. U.S. military spending dropped 6% in 2012 to about $682 billion, and there are further cuts of $87 billion planned for 2013. Those cuts have provoked ire in Congress and led Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to tell the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that his mission “was not to cut the heart out of the Pentagon.”
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