Big military spending hikes took place in Turkey, Armenia, the Baltics and across Central and Eastern Europe in 2019, while notable expenditure increases also occurred in Bulgaria and Romania, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Iran, meanwhile, facing dire economic straits because of the hostility of the Trump administration, saw a clear reduction in the amount it spent on its military.
“The increases in Central and Eastern Europe are largely due to growing perceptions of a threat from Russia,” said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme. “This is despite the fact that Russian military spending has fallen for the past two years.”
At $61.4bn, Russian military spending was the sixth highest in the world in 2018, the figures posted in SIPRI's Trends in World Military Spending report showed. Such spending by Moscow decreased by 3.5% compared with 2017.
Turkish spending growth world’s biggest
Military spending in Turkey increased by 24% in 2018 to $19.0bn, marking the highest annual percentage increase among the world’s top 15 military spenders, the institute said.
Several countries in Central and Eastern Europe made large increases in their military expenditure in 2018, SIPRI observed. 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, with increases ranging from 18% to 24% in 2018.
Countries with the highest relative increases in military spending in 2018 according to the new data included Armenia (up 33%), Bosnia-Herzegovina (26%), Bulgaria (23%), Ukraine, Romania (18%), and Kazakhstan (16%).
Armenia's total expenditure, at $609mn, was 4.8% of GDP, taking its military spending burden to among the top 10 in the world, along with Russia at 3.9 percent.
Iran’s military spending fell 9.5% in 2018 to $13.2bn as the country’s economy contracted and its currency collapsed in the face of renewed heavy economic sanctions imposed by the US.
Military expenditure by the US (up 6.4% to $649bn) climbed for the first time since 2010, with the spending equivalent to 3.2% of GDP.
China's spending rose 5% to $250bn. It marked the 24th consecutive annual increase for the Asian power.