The independent resource on global security

4. Military expenditure

Summary

While the United States has led the global rise in military spending over the past decade, this trend has been followed by many emerging (or re-emerging) regional powers such as China, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. These countries all have rapidly growing economies and key economic and political roles in their respective regions and, in some cases, globally. All six are also developing as military powers, engaging in significant military modernization programmes. Apart from Turkey, all have been increasing military spending, often very rapidly.

The motives for these countries’ military modernization and accompanying increases in military spending vary. In all cases, economic growth is a key enabler; in no case has military spending grown faster than gross domestic product (GDP) since 2001. Economic growth can also be a direct driver, as troops’ salaries share in general increases in salaries.

In some of these six cases, current conflict is a driver of military spending. For India, the perennial conflict with Pakistan and in Kashmir has been joined by the growing Naxalite rebellion. In Turkey, in contrast, the reduction in the intensity of the conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a factor behind falling military spending.

Regional disputes and rivalries also create a desire not to lag behind other countries, even where relations are currently peaceful. For China, the overwhelming US military dominance in the region is a concern, especially in relation to potential conflict over Taiwan. In turn, India is concerned by China’s growing military might, given the two countries’ border disputes and rivalry for influence in the Indian Ocean. Russia meanwhile views an expanding NATO as a potential, if not a current, threat. Even in the absence of regional rivalries, a perception of military power as a source of status may be a motivating factor, as in the cases of Brazil, South Africa and, increasingly, Turkey.

High military spending can be controversial in the face of more pressing social needs. In Brazil, this tension has recently led to changes in budget priorities regarding military spending. In South Africa, the recent major arms procurement package has been severely criticized for diverting funds from poverty and development goals, as well as for corruption. In India, however, civil society criticism of military spending is countered by strong popular concern over Pakistan.

 

 

Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman (United Kingdom) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Professor Julian Cooper (United Kingdom) is Professor of Russian Economic Studies at the University of Birmingham Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES).

Dr Olawale Ismail (Nigeria) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme and coordinator of the SIPRI Project on Security, Democratization and Good Governance in Africa.

Dr Elisabeth Sköns (Sweden) is Director of the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Carina Solmirano (Argentina) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

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