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Asian Military Spending Is Still On The Rise

December 29, 2015

Chinese H6K with J10s 2015

Earlier this month the venerable IHS Jane’s published its annual tabulation of global defense budgets. This year’s data reflects the current pattern of wars and security fears that influence how much governments spend on their militaries.

It also reinforced the obvious, with the undisputed primacy of US spending to fuel its global war machine. In keeping with its long-term goal to wield superpower muscle, China’s own military budget has reached record levels at an estimated $190.9 billion in 2015. This is a massive rise compared to just over $100 billion three years ago.

But a surprising twist this year is the end of the Asia-centric meme that has persisted in recent defense budget literature. Russia’s newfound aggression and the specter of Islamic terrorism have bolstered European defense budgets and arrested their decline in comparison to Asian countries.

Below are the top 15 spenders this year. It’s worth noting that 11 out of 15 countries are somehow involved or participating in an ongoing war, i.e. Syria.  These are the US, Russia, UK, France, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Australia, Italy, Canada, and Turkey.

Turkey’s inclusion in the top 15 is quite dramatic considering its budget was only $5 billion at the beginning of the decade. But today Turkey is orchestrating the Syrian civil war while fighting its own domestic terrorists and grooming its arms exports to the Middle East and Central Asia.

Top Fifteen (15) Ranking

Defense Budget Ranking 2015

United States

China

United Kingdom

France

Russian Federation

India

Japan

Saudi Arabia

Germany

South Korea

Australia

Brazil

Italy

Canada

Turkey

595,330

190,914

66,545

56,467

54,127

49,654

49,298

46,277

43,797

35,667

34,260

30,667

29,011

17,142

15,851

According to IHS Russia’s ambitious rearmament may falter as its domestic economy can no longer afford the current levels of investment.

2015 was the year Russian defence spending peaked after a decade of staggering defence budget growth. The country’s core defence budget has trebled since 2007 in nominal terms, reaching 4.3 percent of GDP this year. Russia’s 2015 defence budget was $54 billion, up from $45 billion in 2014.

“Russian defence spending was starting to look unaffordable even before 2015’s economic and fiscal downturn” Caffrey said. “Cuts are now unavoidable as Moscow tries to keep its budget deficit in check.” Russia’s defence budget is expected to fall in real terms over the next five years; however spending is still projected to be higher in 2020 than what it was in 2014.

Meanwhile, Japan and Saudi Arabia’s own defense budgets are at historic highs. Japan’s investments are now on par with India, a massive nuclear armed state, owing to the threat posed by China’s territorial claims. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is spending more than ever to prosecute its war in Yemen and thwart Iran’s regional spread.

The current wave of conflict in the Middle East forebodes a future showdown between Riyadh and Tehran. With sanctions soon to be lifted on their resource-rich country and ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq, Iran’s military spending is on the rise too.

As the chart below indicates, countries embroiled in war–Ukraine, Iran, Russia, Israel, and Iraq–have raised their budgets by sudden percentages. Meanwhile the threat to sovereign territory and future conflict is leading to higher budgets for Poland, Philippines, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam.

Top Ten (10) Growing Defense Budgets of 2015

RANK/COUNTRY Growth in %
Ukraine

Iran

Poland

Russian Federation

Philippines

Indonesia

Israel

China

Iraq

Vietnam

69.97%

29.01%

21.97%

21.34%

14.98%

12.78%

9.90%

9.05%

8.55%

7.15%

This 2015 was a year of unprecedented turmoil. Although the tragedy of mass warfare between countries is unlikely, persistent violence and collapsing governments made it less than peaceful. Old ghosts–rival powers and terrorism–had a prominent role in deepening the world’s insecurity. This is happening at a time when extremely high tech arms can be acquired by any government with ease.

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  1. 2015: The Year In War | 21st Century Asian Arms Race

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