Global military spending rises to $2 trillion despite pandemic

Total global military expenditure rose to almost $2 trillion in 2020, an increase of 2.6% in 2019 despite the pandemic.

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Global military spending rises to $2 trillion despite pandemic www.africanpolicy.com

Despite an economic slowdown and an ongoing pandemic, militaries around the world saw their budgets increase to record levels.

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t dampened the world’s appetite for military spending in 2020, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

In 2020, even as nations around the world struggled to contain the coronavirus, the world spent almost $2 trillion in military spending, an increase of 2.6 percent since 2019.

The growth in military expenditure occurred even as the world economy shrank by 3.3 percent in 2020 as nations buckled under lockdown measures in a bid to contain the pandemic.

SIPRI’s data suggests that some of the countries most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic failed to divert resources towards their health systems – which in many cases approached breaking point.

The US remains the world’s leading military spenders pouring an estimated $778 billion into the military, an increase of 4.4 percent in 2019.

To give an idea of how much the US outspends all other nations, it accounted for 39 percent of total global military spending in 2020. The country’s growing military defence budget reflects a belief in the previous Donald Trump administration that the size of the military wasn’t big enough.

The US also leads the world in deaths resulting from Covid-19 infections, with almost 600,000 dead and more than 32 million cases.

An increase in the US military budget “reflects growing concerns over perceived threats from strategic competitors such as China and Russia,” said an analyst from SIPRI.

China, which has contained the Covid-19 pandemic much better than most other countries and one of the few economies that still grew in 2020, also saw a modest increase in its military budget for the 26th consecutive year.

In 2020 China spent $252 billion on its military, an increase of 1.9 percent from 2019 and the second-highest spender after the US.

“China stands out as the only major spender in the world not to increase its military burden in 2020 despite increasing its military expenditure because of its positive GDP growth last year,” said Dr. Nan Tian, SIPRI Senior Researcher.

The country effectively saw its military budget shrink as a percentage of GDP in 2020, in stark contrast to countries like France.

As the 8th biggest military spender, France is now spending more than 2 percent of GDP on its military, primarily due to an economy that shrank in 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the country particularly hard, with lockdowns and high levels of infections continuing in the country amidst a botched vaccine rollout.

The Russian military also increased by 2.5 percent reaching $61.7 billion. However, this was 6.6 percent lower than was initially budgeted.

The coronavirus has catalyzed a demographic problem that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called a national security issue. In addition to low birth rates and migration deaths resulting from Covid-19 saw Russia’s population shrink for the first time in 15 years.

Another noteworthy development was the decline of military expenditure in the Middle East, with spending declining by 6.5 percent to $143 billion.

The region, which regularly tops the charts in weapons expenditures were forced to cut spending as oil prices plummeted. Saudi Arabia’s military spending fell by 10 percent in 2020, the report notes.

In 2020 Turkey’s military expenditure decreased by 5 percent 2020, to $17.7 billion. The SIPRI reports say that the fall “was an exception in a decade marked by a continued upward trend in Turkey’s military spending, with the growth of 77 percent between 2011 and 2020.”

A fall in Turkish military expenditure also allowed Israel to surpass Turkey as the top 15 military spenders with $21.7 billion.

Sub-Saharan African countries, which rank as some of the world’s poorest countries, also increased their military budgets.

Military budgets increased by 3.4 percent reaching $18.5 billion with Chad (31 percent), Mali (22 percent), Mauritania (23 percent), and Nigeria (29 percent), all in the Sahel region as well as Uganda (46 percent).

SIPRI’s report also warns that as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in 2021, the world could begin to see a fall in military expenditure as countries tighten budgets and seek to stimulate the broader economy.

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