04/14/2015, 00.00
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Arms trafficking: Riyadh leader in world rankings

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has ranked the top 15 countries in the arms trade in 2014. Top of the list are Saudi Arabia, China, India and Japan. The Saudi Kingdom provides weapons to militants in Syria and leads the anti-Houti coalition in Yemen. NATO countries do not increase the defense budget. China’s data distorted.

Stockholm (AsiaNews) - In 2014, Saudi Arabia invested most (in percentage) in defense, about 17% of the annual budget (80.8 billion dollars); followed by China with 9.7% (216 billion dollars) and Russia with 8.1% of the budget (84.5 billion). In contrast, the United States alone decreased military spending (6.5%), although it is still in first place with 610 billion dollars.

This is according to the annual report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which has ranked the top 15 countries worldwide in buying and selling weapons. While Asian  nations have increased their military capacity - with India which is ranked seventh and Japan ninth (confirming 2013 data) - the United States decreased its spending on defense by 20% since 2010.

According to the research group, the change is due to global political situation. In particular, the report cites the annexation of the Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the continuing tensions in territorial disputes in the South China Sea and eastern Europe. As for Saudi Arabia, it continues to supply weapons to militants in Syria, has joined the coalition against the Islamic State (IS), led by the United States and last month led the attacks against Shiite rebels in Yemen Houti.

The report data does not contain updates due to falling oil prices, which occurred at the end of 2014. The researchers believe that many oil-exporting countries in the Middle East will resist the negative impacts of the crisis thanks to "solid financial reserves" that they have accumulated during over the years. The same cannot be said for Russia, which had planned military spending in 2015 before the start of the crisis in Ukraine.

In fact, the Kremlin has decided to cut the defense budget due to the severe economic crisis: "Falling oil and gas prices and economic sanctions have reduced state income dramatically and led to a major devaluation of the ruble. As a result, the initial defense budget for 2015, which was 4.2 trillion rubles ( billion), was cut by around 5 percent in the revised budget presented in March 2015, which made cuts to almost all budget lines.”

Despite the economic difficulties, the Moscow government still plans a significant increase in military spending in 2015, accounting for 15% of GDP - that is what was decided at the beginning. Instead, the document shows that the NATO countries will not increase their military spending. Most of the countries of Central and Western Europe are following a negative trend, due to the ongoing austerity policies, while the Baltic States and the countries of Eastern Europe and the North will increase their efforts to resist the Russian threat.

Finally, in 2014 the estimates of China’s expenditure have followed pace with economic growth, which has remained stable at around 2% of GDP over the past decade. The Institute maintains that China’s costs have been far superior to what the government officially claims (130 billion dollars instead of 216) since the total amount does not include data regarding research, the import and manufacture of weapons, or People's Liberation Army (PLA) pensions.


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