Military spending fell last year in the United States and across western and central Europe, but surged in Russia, China, the Middle East and North Africa, according to new figures released by a research group based in Sweden.
The changes “may be the beginning of a shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging nations,” Sam Perlo-Freeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a statement announcing the report Monday.
Although the U.S. still accounted for 39% of global military spending –- far more than any other country -- belt tightening and the drawdown in Afghanistan contributed to a 6% decline in expenditures from the previous year, Perlo-Freeman said. Military pending in western and central Europe dropped 1.6%.
Meanwhile, Russia increased its spending 16%, part of a massive plan to modernize its armaments, according to the report. Chinese military spending was up an estimated 8%.
The increase in Russian spending, and an even bigger uptick in Ukraine, helped drive up military spending across Eastern Europe, which had the biggest jump of any region, 15%, the institute said. Spending also rose in the Middle East (8%), North Africa (8%), Latin America (4%) and Asia and Oceania (3%.)
The single biggest increase was reported in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, which hiked its military spending by 51%, according to the institute.
Those increases continue a trend stretching back a decade in some parts of the world. Vietnam, for instance, has more than doubled its military spending since 2003, a reaction to increased Chinese assertiveness regarding disputed territories in the South China Sea, researchers said.
However, military spending worldwide fell 0.5% last year.
The new figures include spending on armed forces, peacekeepers, defense ministries, paramilitary forces and military space activities. The institute did not include spending on veterans’ benefits or weapons destruction.