World Military Spending Falls for the First Time in 15 Years

Mike O'Brien

Global military spending dropped last year for the first time since 1998, with the gap in expenditure between the U.S. and the rest of the world narrowing.

China and Russia, however, are spending more with year-on-year increases of 7.8 percent and 16 percent respectively.

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The world spent $1.75 trillion on its armed forces in 2012, down 0.5 percent from the year before, according to a report on Monday by the Swedish-based arms watchdog The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The fall is largely attributed to defense spending cuts in the U.S. and other NATO countries. The biggest rise in the world was in Oman, where expenditure rose by 51 percent.

"We are seeing what may be the beginning of a shift in the balance of world military spending from the rich Western countries to emerging regions," SIPRI researcher Sam Perlo-Freeman told the Associated Press.

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"The U.S. of course is still far and away the No. 1, but the ratio between the U.S. and China has gone down from 7-1 a few years ago to 4-1 in 2012."

The U.S. still accounted for 39 percent of global military spending, but it was the first time the figure dropped below 40 percent since the end of the Cold War.

Mr. Perlo-Freeman pointed out that the gap was larger in terms of actual capabilities. For example, the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers but China only has one.

"It takes time for changes in military spending to translate into sustained changes in military capabilities," he added.

U.S. military spending dropped 6 percent in 2012 to $682 billion, and the figures for 2013 may look even worse with planned cuts of $87 billion planned for 2013. Such is the furor in Washington over the budgets cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was forced toannounce on Thursday that his role "was not to cut the heart out of the Pentagon."

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