Global arms spending rose to more than $1.6 trillion in 2010, with South America and Africa accounting for the fastest relative increases over the previous year, a Swedish defense industry watchdog said.
Money spent on defense in South America last year increased 5.8 percent to $63.3 billion on the region’s economic boom, the geopolitical rise of Brazil and internal security threats in some states, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a study released this week.
This continuing increase in South America is surprising given the lack of real military threats to most states and the existence of more pressing social needs,” Carina Solmirano, Sipri’s South America expert, said in a statement. The watchdog from Stockholm has in the past warned of an arms race in South America.
Defense spending in Africa increased 5.2 percent over 2009, led by major oil-producers such as Algeria, Angola and Nigeria. Over the past decade, military expenditures rose by 64 percent.
While the increases in South America and Africa are cause for concern, they’re coming from a relatively modest total and are dwarfed by the U.S. focus on military power.
While growth in U.S. defense expenditures slowed in 2010, its $698 billion spent remains exceptional compared to other nations.
“The United States has increased its military spending by 81 percent since 2001 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total, six times its nearest rival China,” said Sam Perlo-Freeman, the project’s head researcher. “At 4.8 percent of gross domestic product, U.S. military spending in 2010 represents the largest economic burden outside the Middle East.”
Defense spending in Europe, plagued by a debt crisis, fell 2.8 percent to $382 billion.
While major spenders such as Britain, France and Germany experienced modest cuts, many smaller Central and Eastern European countries saw large falls, Sipri said. They include Bulgaria (28 percent), Latvia (26 percent) and Georgia (25 percent).
In Asia, economic growth slowed down in 2009 while military spending continued to rise rapidly, Sipri said.
“Thus, the slower increase of 1.4 percent in military spending in 2010 partly readjusts growth in military spending to economic growth rates,” the watchdog writes. “The Chinese government, for example, explicitly linked its smaller increase in 2010 to China’s weaker economic performance in 2009.”
In the Middle East, countries spent $111 billion on military in 2010, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2009. Sipri notes, however, that its data for the Middle East is plagued by a “very low level of transparency.”
Iran, for example, is exempt from the report: It hasn’t revealed its spending on arms.
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