Global military spending hit record levels in 2020
Global military spending, driven in part by Chinese naval expansion, reached record levels in 2020 despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic contraction, a British think-tank said.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said military spending reached $1.8 trillion last year - a 3.9% increase in real terms over figures for 2019.
The London-based think-tank said in its annual "Military Balance" publication that expenditure rose "despite the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent contraction in global economic output."
The United States remained the world’s largest defense spender in 2020, IISS said, accounting for 40% of $738 billion globally.
China, by comparison, accounted for 10.6% or $193.3 billion. Beijing’s military spending was the driving force behind growth in Asia’s overall defense expenditure, and accounted for 25% of the continent’s spending in 2020, AFP reported.
The IISS also highlighted Chinese military expansion and the significant growth of its naval fleet, a response driven in part by to Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.
Total European defense spending grew by 2% in real terms in 2020, the IISS said.
Europe’s NATO members also continued increasing military expenditure. However, most NATO members are still far from the objective of devoting 2% of their GDP to defense by 2024. In 2020 only nine of the alliance’s European members met the target. "The commitment by key players to increase their defense budgets in 2021 and beyond signals an intention to avoid the cuts that followed the 2007−08 financial crisis," the report said referring to European nations like the UK, France, Germany and Italy.