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Global Arms Spending Remains Largely Unchanged

An arms watchdog says global military spending remained largely unchanged in 2014.

In a fresh report issued on April 13, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said total global arms expenditure was down 0.4 percent at $1.8 trillion.

SIPRI said lower military spending in the United States and Western Europe was offset by higher spending elsewhere, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, the three biggest spenders after the United States.

SIPRI said conflicts in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa had fueled arms spending in those areas.

SIPRI program director Sam Perlo-Freeman said the conflict in Ukraine has prompted many European countries near Russia to increase military spending, particularly in central Europe, the Baltics and the Nordic countries.

On the other hand, the five biggest spenders in western Europe — France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain — have all budgeted for further, small cuts this year.

"The Ukraine crisis has fundamentally altered the security situation in Europe, but so far the impact on military spending is mostly apparent in countries bordering Russia," he said. "Elsewhere, austerity remains the main driver of downward spending trends."

In Poland, for instance, military spending rose 13 percent.

The report said Poland was expected to allocate at least two percent of GDP for defense spending in 2015, a target NATO wants alliance members to meet.

Ukraine increased expenditure by over 20 percent in 2014 and plans to more than double spending on the armed forces in 2015.

According to the SIPRI report, Russia increased arms spending by 8.1 per cent to an estimated $84.5 billion.

Although Russia has cut planned expenditures for 2015 by 5 percent, its overall spending was still expected to be higher than in 2014, the report said.

Saudi Arabia boosted its military investments the most, by 17 percent, while China's arms spending rose by 9.7 percent to an estimated $216 billion.

The United States remained the world's biggest spender on defense, despite cutting arms expenditures in 2014 by 6.4 percent as part of measures to cut the U.S. budget deficit.

The United States spent $610 billion on defense last year.

That equaled 34 percent of global expenditures and almost three times as much as China.

With reporting by AFP, dpa and AP

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