Russian military spending falls for first time in two decades, watchdog says

REUTERS  Benoit Tessier

Overall, world military expenditures rose to $1.739 trillion in 2017, a rise of 1.1 percent.

Military spending in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries continues to dwarf equivalent spending in Russian Federation and the gap widened in 2017, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). At the same time, India spent United States dollars 63.9 billion, a significant increase of 5.5% year-on-year, ultimately doubling its military budget since 2008. The U.S Department of Defense assessment on Chinese military said that its leaders "seem committed to increases in defense spending for the foreseeable future, even as China's economic growth slows", with military expenditure rising from 8.5 per cent per year between 2007 and 2016.

Russia's military spending decreased for the first time since 1998, down 20% from 2016, SIPRI reported.

Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2% of global gross domestic product, the report said. "It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world".

Russia's sharp military cutback occurred while military spending reached a post-Cold War high elsewhere around the world in 2017, led by higher spending in the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Because of what is perceived as a growing threat from Russian Federation, military spending in Europe increased in 2017.

Many of Russia's neighbors significantly increased their military spending previous year, in large part because of increased fears over military aggression on the part of Moscow.

The Middle East also saw significant increases in military spending. Some officials at the Kremlin have called for lower military spending to free up funds for such domestic initiatives.

The U.S. accounted for over a third of global military expenditure.

In last year's Budget, military spending increased to a record level of more than $(NZD) 3.67 billion - an average of nearly $(NZD) 71 million every week.

Based on annual military spending estimates from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 15 countries with the largest military expenditure in 2017. "Russia is, importantly, demonstrating continued interest in capabilities beyond conventional military force that are easier to develop and deploy unaccountably", says the IISS report, warning that the West has found no effective response either via sanctions or other measures. Military expenditure in the Americas remained unchanged in 2017, but was 11 per cent lower than in 2008.

Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told Sputnik News that when it comes to the Middle East, there's a "bit of a yo-yo movement there".

Various Pentagon officials argued that cuts to the USA defense budget, particularly those that came as part of the so-called sequestration agreement reached by the Republican-led Congress and Obama, reduced America's military readiness.

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