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Increased military consumption in 2015

After several years of reduced military spending, expenditures spent on military purposes rose one percent – to 1676 billion – in 2015.


Tuesday 5. April 2016 presented Stockholm's International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) its annual figures for the world's military consumption. For the first time since 2011, an increase in global consumption was recorded. The United States is still the country with the highest military consumption, followed by China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. US spending of $ X billion equals that of the next eight countries on the list.

Reduced US consumption. Military spending in the United States has been declining in recent years, and this trend continued in 2015 as well. However, there are signs that the downward trend in consumption is about to stabilize.
"Military spending was cut in the United States to reduce the budget deficit and due to the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and Iraq," said the head of SIPRI's military consumption project Sam Perlo-Freeman. "But now many in Congress think the cuts have gone too far, and short-term measures have been put in place to exempt the defense budget from government spending cuts. The budget for overseas operations is now not affected by government cuts, and the operation against ISIS means that this budget is on the rise again. "
Perlo-Freeman also points out that since government cuts have affected the Ministry of Defense's basic budget, the budget for overseas operations is now used to finance equipment and research that would normally be covered by the basic budget.
At the same time, military consumption continued to decline in Latin America and the Caribbean, partly as a result of falling oil prices and economic problems in several countries. Venezuela made a special mark, with a reduced consumption of 64 percent. In Africa, eleven years of increasing military consumption were reversed, including the result of sharply reduced consumption in Angola. This too can be linked to lower oil prices.

Increasing voltage. In Eastern and Central Europe, military spending continued to rise, as the year before. Countries such as Poland and Lithuania recorded a particularly strong increase. In addition, military spending rose in Russia and Ukraine, and in several other Russia's neighboring countries. This suggests that the combination of Russia's desire to strengthen its position as a military superpower, a more tense tone between NATO and Russia as well as the Russian meddling in Ukraine have affected the countries involved and their neighbors' defense priorities.
Western European military consumption, which has been declining in recent years, appears to be stabilizing. Some western European countries have come out with signals of stronger military commitment in the years to come.
"The main reasons why the decline in Western European military spending appears to be slowing is a growing concern for Russia, as well as stronger pressure from NATO for member states to increase their defense budgets," Perolo-Freeman believes. "This escalating tension in Russia-NATO relations can continue, with increased militarization of the region and even higher levels of tension as a result."

Growth and arms race. This year, SIPRI is careful to give an overall description of developments in the Middle East. The reason is lack of data for many countries. But if we look at the information available, military consumption has gone up from 2014 to 2015. Saudi Arabia defends its position as one of the countries in the world with the highest military consumption, both in real spending and as a share of gross domestic product. In addition, Iraq is marking an increase in consumption of 35 percent from 2014 to 2015, and 536 percent between 2006 and 2015. The war against ISIS and the rebuilding of the military system following the US invasion in 2003 are among the reasons for the sharp increase.

Saudi Arabia defends its position as one of the countries in the world with the highest military consumption, both in real spending and as a share of gross domestic product.

Developments in Asia continued to show an upward trend in 2015, with continued growth in China as the main reason. However, China's increase in military consumption was lower than in previous years – a sign that the country's economic growth was beginning to slow. India continued its military modernization programs in recent years with modest growth in military consumption in 2015 as well, something Pakistan has expressed concern and answered by increasing its own military consumption by over 10 percent in 2015.
Part of what characterized Asia in 2015 was the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and China's progress in several of the disputed maritime areas. This tension is also reflected in the military consumption of several of the countries involved. China's military consumption continued to rise, as mentioned, while countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam also saw a strong increase in military consumption in 2015.
"I think we can certainly say that we are seeing an armor race in the countries around the South China Sea," Perlo-Freeman notes.
Norwegian companies sell weapons and other military equipment to several countries involved in the conflict over territories in the South China Sea, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Questions should be asked about whether Norway should contribute to an arms race in an area with such a high level of tension.

Uncertain future. Perlo-Freeman is careful to say something certain about the future.
“On the one hand, many countries are experiencing financial difficulties, including as a result of falling oil prices, which can contribute to reduced military consumption. But, on the other hand, we see rising levels of tension in many parts of the world, including between Russia and NATO and the South China Sea, which may increase the focus on military armament. I think we will make a small change, either in one or change the direction in the coming years, but are uncertain in which direction. "

Heldal is the leader of Norway's peace team.

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