U.S. and European allies made deep defense cuts in 2012, while China and Russia expanded their defense budgets

U.S. defense spending fell 6% in 2012

From Niklas Pollard, Reuters:  Global military spending dropped in 2012 for the first time in more than a decade thanks to deep cuts in the United States and Europe which made up for increases in countries such as China and Russia, a leading think-tank said on Monday.

Big powers the United States and its European allies face tight budgets in an economic downturn and have scaled back involvement in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s second biggest economy China, however, is ramping up spending and registered 7.8 percent growth in 2012 from the year before, up 175 percent from 2003.

Military expenditure as a whole fell 0.5 percent to $1.75 trillion last year in the first decline in real terms since 1998, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which carries out research on international security, armaments and disarmament, said in a statement.

"We are seeing what may be the beginning of a shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging regions," said Sam Perlo-Freeman, director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Military expenditure in the United States, the world’s biggest spender by far with a budget about five times that of China, fell 6 percent and stood below 40 percent of the global total for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago, SIPRI said. . . .

In Europe, austerity measures prompted by the financial crisis that started in 2008 have forced NATO members to cut back spending by 10 percent in real terms.

"All the indications are that world military spending is likely to keep falling for the next two to three years — at least until NATO completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2014," Perlo-Freeman said. . . .

Military spending is up around 8 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. In a region transformed by popular uprisings and reeling from a bloody civil war in Syria, Western allies such as Saudi Arabia and Oman have accounted for much of the increase in their efforts to counter the strategic challenge posed by Iran.

In North Africa, countries such as Algeria have bolstered spending in the face of rebel threats, SIPRI said.

Russia’s military spending rose 16 percent in 2012, which analysts said reflected President Vladimir Putin’s efforts since he returned to power last May to bolster the armed forces and improve weaponry.  (photo: Reuters)

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