Global military spending rises 2.6% in 2020 despite pandemic hit

STOCKHOLM: Global military expenditure rose by 2.6 percent to $1.98 trillion last year even as some defense funds were reallocated to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report issued on Monday.

The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 percent of military spending worldwide, were the United States, China, India, Russia and Britain in that order.

“We can say with some certainty that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020,” SIPRI researcher Diego Lopes da Silva said in a statement.

As global GDP declined because of the pandemic, military spending as a share of GDP reached a global average of 2.4 percent in 2020, up from 2.2 percent in 2019.

However, some countries such as Chile and South Korea redirected part of their planned military spending to their pandemic response. Several others including Brazil and Russia spent considerably less than their initial military budgets for 2020.

US military expenditure reached an estimated $778 billion last year, 4.4 percent more than in 2019. With the world’s biggest defense budget, the United States accounted for 39 percent of total global military expenditure in 2020.

It was the third consecutive year of growth in US military spending, following seven years of continuous reductions.

China’s military expenditure, the second highest in the world, is estimated to have totaled $252 billion in 2020, a rise of 1.9 percent from the previous tear.

Chinese military spending has risen for 26 consecutive years, the longest series of uninterrupted increases by any country in SIPRI’s database.