A Leopard 2 tank is seen in action during a visit of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius at the Bundeswehr tank battalion 203 at the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf, Germany, Feb 1, 2023. (MARTIN MEISSNER / FILE / AP)
The outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine last year has led to military expenditure in Europe experiencing its steepest rise in three decades, data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, have revealed.
Across the world, including Asia and the Middle East, outlay on weapons reached an all-time high of $2.24 trillion last year, but it is the figures for Europe that most catch the eye.
In 2022, states in central and western Europe spent $345 billion, 30 percent more than the figure for a decade earlier, and in real terms a figure that exceeded expenditure in 1989, the last year of the Cold War, and before the breakup of the Eastern bloc began.
"The invasion of Ukraine had an immediate impact on military spending decisions in central and western Europe," said Diego Lopes da Silva, a senior researcher at SIPRI.
Of the top 10 heaviest spending nations in the world, three were from western Europe — the United Kingdom, Germany and France, but all lagging behind Russia. The UK's total of $68.5 billion included an estimated $2.5 billion, or 3.6 percent, in the form of financial support for Ukraine
"This included multiyear plans to boost spending from several governments. As a result, we can reasonably expect military expenditure in central and western Europe to keep rising in the years ahead," he said.
Of the top 10 heaviest spending nations in the world, three were from western Europe — the United Kingdom, Germany and France, but all lagging behind Russia. The UK's total of $68.5 billion included an estimated $2.5 billion, or 3.6 percent, in the form of financial support for Ukraine, while Germany experienced its largest rearmament since World War II.
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A whopping 640 percent increase in military expenditure by Ukraine saw it become the country with, by far, the largest share of its GDP — 34 percent — being spent on the military, as opposed to just 3.2 percent the year before, and other countries that sharply increased their military outlay included Finland, with 36 percent, Lithuania 27 percent, Sweden 12 percent and Poland 11 percent.
Nan Tian, another senior researcher at SIPRI, warned that the global signs are that the latest spending patterns are unlikely to stop soon.
"The continuous rise in global military expenditure in recent years is a sign that we are living in an increasingly insecure world," he said. "States are bolstering military strength in response to a deteriorating security environment, which they do not foresee improving in the near future."
Aside from Europe, the United States remains by far the world's biggest military spender as its military spending reached $877 billion in 2022, which was 39 percent of total global military spending and three times more than the amount spent by China, the report said.
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The 0.7 percent real-terms increase in US spending in 2022 would have been even greater had it not been for the highest levels of inflation since 1981.
"The increase in USA's military spending in 2022 was largely accounted for by the unprecedented level of financial military aid it provided to Ukraine," said Nan. "Given the scale of US spending, even a minor increase in percentage terms has a significant impact on the level of global military expenditure."
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