From the heart of Europe (Ukraine) to Asia, from the Middle East to Africa: the winds of war fuelled by more or less extended conflicts and by an – apparently – relentless arms race don’t cease to blow. But they are proved wrong by numbers that describe a different – albeit equally serious – global picture, as reiterated by US President Barack Obama who recently, and on various occasions before then, called upon Europe’s rearmament by allocating at least 2% of GDP in weapons. In order to face the threats to stability and peace in the hottest corners of the earth weapons are needed more than politics and diplomacy. Obama’s request finds no comfort in the figures of the annual report on the progress of global military expenditure drawn up by Swedish research institute Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Indeed, awkward as it may seem, the USA are the first to cut their military expenditure. Decreasing world arms expenditure. The first relevant finding that emerges from the latest “Yearbook 2013” is that the world’s military spending, amounting to 1.747 billion dollars, has declined (in real terms) by 1.9% between 2012 and 2013. This is the second consecutive decline. Military spending – considering that in this sector, that is far from “transparent”, official figures are lacking, worsened by informative gaps, as on armaments’ import/export tracks – has declined in North America in particular, in central and Western Europe and in Oceania, while it grew in other areas of the world. The top five nations in terms of military investments in 2013 were the United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and France. Only in the United States spending fell by 7.8%, totalling 640 billion. One of the main causes of the decline lies in the reduction of the costs of military operations abroad. But while the United States cut military spending, China registered + 7.4%, confirming a policy of long-term military spending in line with economic growth. Also Russia’s military spending rose by 4.8%, and for the first time since 2003 it has invested a share (4.1%) of its GDP that is higher than that of the US (3.8%). Russia’s 2011-2020 armaments plan envisages a 705 billion dollars investment. In this particular ranking of military spending figures a big leap forward of Saudi Arabia from the seventh place in 2012 to the fourth place with $ 67 billion, equal to 9.3% of the national GDP (in 2012 it was 8,1%). Declines were registered also in the overall military spending of France (61.2 billion dollars), United Kingdom (57.9 billion), Italy (32.7), Brazil, Australia and Canada, while military spending for Germany, Japan and India remained almost the same. Increased spending in certain countries. The Report also shows that 23 Countries doubled their military expenditure in the period 2004-2013, and that none of these include Northern America, Central and Western Europe and Oceania. In fact, Central and Western Europe continue carrying out cuts to weapons expenditure. From 2008 to 2013, the decline reached 10% in real terms in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, and even in Central Europe, with the exception of Poland. Conversely, military spending in Latin America in the year 2013 grew by 2.2% in real terms, and by 61% in the years 2004-2013. The highest increases in 2013 were registered in Africa, approximately +8.3 %. Ghana, for example, has more than doubled its spending, from $ 109 million in 2012 to 306 in 2013. Military spending grew in Algeria (+8.8), reaching $ 10.4 billion. The second African country investing the most in military spending is Angola with a 36% increase in 2013, reaching $ 6.1 billion expenditure in this field. In 2013 expenditure on armaments in Asia and Oceania grew by 3.6%, totalling 407 billion dollars. China ranks first, followed by the countries of South East Asia with + 5%, like Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. Middle East. The traditionally “heated” Middle East registered a 4% increase in real terms of military spending, that reached +56% in the period 2004-2013. No 2013 figures are available for Iran, Qatar, Syria, Yemen and United Arab Emirates. The highest growth rate was registered by Iraq (+27%) and Bahrein (+26%). However, the greatest investor of military expenses of the area, that for Sipri includes Gulf countries, remains Saudi Arabia with +14%.
Warfare expenditures increase in world "hot areas" (i.e. the Middle East and Africa) a decline in US and Europe