Military spending rises worldwide despite COVID-19 pandemic

Global military spending increased by 2.6 per cent to €1.637 trillion last year, despite the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States continues to spend the most on its defence, followed by China, but military spending also rose by 4 per cent across Europe, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Only a few countries re-allocated part of their planned spending to their healthcare systems, including Chile and South Korea. Others, such as Hungary, boosted their military expenditure as part of broader efforts to revive their economy.

The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Twelve NATO members spent 2 per cent or more of their GDP on their military, the target set by the alliance, compared with 9 members in 2019. France, the 8th biggest spender globally, passed the 2 per cent threshold for the first time since 2009.

Under pressure

While this changing ratio has a lot to do with countries’ GDP shrinking last year, it’s also the result of increased pressure for NATO members to beef up their defence spending, says Nan Tian, a senior researcher with SIPRI.

“Since Crimea in 2014, there’s been an increased pressure that European countries essentially increase their military spending given the increased threat perception of Russia,” Tian told Euronews.

“And of course, over the past couple of years, we’ve seen this increased call by Trump for European countries to increase their essential burden-sharing within NATO.”

Another driver of the rising spending, he says, are “lessons learnt from 2009”: many countries are now choosing to avoid austerity policies and are instead looking to economic stimulus measures.

Watch the interview in the video player above.

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