Sunday, April 17, 2016

10 Countries With The Fastest Growing Militaries

Military spending in the United States totaled $596 billion in 2015, far and away the largest annual military expenditure in the world at nearly three times that of second-place China. While the U.S. military will likely not be outspent any time soon, American defense spending has declined each year since its most recent peak in 2010. Meanwhile, a number of other countries have substantially increased their military budgets in recent years.

The nations of the world spent $1.68 trillion on their militaries in 2015, up slightly from 2014, the first global increase since 2011. Based on annual military expenditures estimated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 countries with the largest one-year military expenditure increases as well as the 10 nations with the largest military spending declines.

Short-term spikes in military spending are often in response to heightened regional tensions or a country’s ongoing involvement in a conflict. According to Dr. Sam Perlo-Freeman, senior researcher at SIPRI, “It’s not surprising that in light both of ongoing conflicts and the rebuilding post conflict that large increases of military spending are going on” in these war-torn areas.

Violent conflicts help explain the one-year military spending growths in nearly all of these nations with the largest spending increases. Perceived threats from Russia, which used its enormous military might to annex Crimea in 2014, likely triggered Poland’s decision to increase military spending. The Philippines is another example. The small island nation increased its military budget by over 25% last year due in large part to heightened tensions with China over fishing rights in the South China Sea.

Ultimately, the strength of a nation’s economy dictates the growth of its military spending. In Uruguay, Paraguay, and several other South American nations, a conflict was not necessary to trigger defense spending sprees. Just as the largest military spenders tend to be among the wealthiest nations in the world, strong economic conditions in Uruguay and Paraguay largely explain the defense spending increases in those nations.

By the same logic, a country mired in violent conflict may not be able to expand its military spending. War and violence are still raging in Afghanistan, for example. However, the withdrawal of international aid has led to the nation’s 19.0% military spending drop. Similarly, in South Sudan, where the military has its hands full with civil war, military spending dropped by 25.4% because of poor economic conditions. Well over half of South Sudan’s government revenue comes from oil, and the precipitous drop in oil prices largely explains the spending decrease.

This was the case in a number of the nations recording the largest military spending declines. Most notably perhaps are Oman and Venezuela, the nations with the fastest and 10th fastest shrinking military budgets. Both of these countries are major oil producers. While military spending in these nations dropped considerably over the last year, their military spending as a share of GDP actually rose over the same period, reflecting the sharp decline in their economic output.

To identify the countries with the fastest rising and fastest falling military budgets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the increases in military expenditures from 2014 through 2015 as estimated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in its most recent annual “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2015” report. We only considered countries with military expenditures of at least $100 million. Spending as a share of GDP and absolute spending figures for 2015, 2014, and 2006 also came from SIPRI. Military expenditure data include all current and capital expenditure on:

• The armed forces, including peacekeeping forces
• Defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects
• Paramilitary forces, when judged to be trained and equipped for military operations
• Military space activities
• Military and civil personnel, including retirement pensions and social services for military personnel
• Operations and maintenance
• Procurement
• Military research and development
• Military aid (in the military expenditure of the donor country)
We also considered 2015, 2014, and 2006 per capita GDP from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Gross domestic product is based on purchasing power parity (PPP) and is in current international dollars.
These are the countries with the fastest growing (and shrinking) military expenditures: 

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