Global military spending rose again in 2021, setting new records as Russia continued to beef up its military prior to its invasion of Ukraine, researchers said Monday, predicting the trend would continue in Europe in particular.
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Despite the economic fallout of the global Covid pandemic, countries around the world increased their arsenals, with global military spending rising by 0.7 percent last year, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
“In 2021 military spending rose for the seventh consecutive time to reach $2.1 trillion. That is the highest figure we have ever had,” Diego Lopes da Silva, senior researcher at Sipri, told AFP.
Russia’s spending grew by 2.9 percent — the third year of consecutive growth — to $65.9 billion.
Defence spending accounted for 4.1 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP), “much higher than the world average”, and making Moscow the fifth largest spender in the world, Lopes da Silva said.
High oil and gas revenues helped the country boost military expenditure. Lopes da Silva noted that Russia saw a sharp uptick in spending towards the end of the year.
“That happened as Russia amassed troops alongside the Ukrainian border preceding of course the invasion of Ukraine in February,” the researcher said.
Whether Russia would be able to sustain its spending was difficult to predict, Lopes da Silva said, due to the wave of sanctions imposed by the West in response to the aggression in Ukraine.
In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, the country was also targeted with sanctions at the same time as energy prices fell, making it difficult to gauge how effective sanctions were on their own.
“Now… we have even tougher sanctions, that’s for sure, but we have higher energy prices which can help Russia afford to maintain military spending at that level,” Lopes da Silva said.
On the other side, Ukraine’s military spending has risen by 72 percent since the annexation of Crimea. While spending declined by over eight percent in 2021 to $5.9 billion, it still accounted for 3.2 percent of Ukraine’s GDP.