The world's military spending grows, along with number of conflicts


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Global military expenditure in 2008 is estimated to have totaled $1,464 billion, an increase of 4% in real terms compared to 2007, and of 45% since 1999. Military expenditure comprised approximately 2.4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) writes in its Yearbook 2009.

The Swedish analysts write that the driving forces behind the increase were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia's return to the global scene, as well as the growth of China. This may be so, but it appears that growing world tensions were the root cause of these and other factors.

According to SIPRI, the United States' military expenditure was the largest in the world in 2008, $607 billion (41.5% of the world's total). Other large military spenders were China ($84.9 billion), France ($65.7 billion), Britain ($65.3 billion), and Russia ($58.6 billion).

Twenty-five years ago, the world was divided into two warring camps. But the Cold War they were waging, although it cost them much money and effort, actually had a stabilizing effect on the world. The two superpowers controlled their satellite countries, and although the global arms stockpiles were sky-high and mutual rhetoric was very harsh, the number of local conflicts taking place simultaneously was relatively stable.

The disintegration of the socialist bloc and subsequently the Soviet Union disrupted the balance, and the probability of conflicts grew dramatically. New players tried to fill the military vacuum, which resulted in new local wars, including in the former Soviet Union. The number of simultaneous conflicts grew from 25-30 in 1972-1974 to 30-35 in 1985-1986, and peaked at 45-50 in 1992-1993.

After that, their number plummeted, only to start growing again in the 21st century, when the Soviet Union's adversaries in the Cold War increased their military activity.

Many analysts believe that the conflicts in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans would have been unimaginable when the Soviet Union was strong, because its influence alone could prevent Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent U.S. Operation Desert Storm to liberate it, and also the interference of foreign powers in the internal Yugoslav conflict.

By the end of the 1990s, NATO and above all the United States unambiguously demonstrated their intention to use military force to solve domestic and global problems. After the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, Washington ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq to liquidate terrorist organizations and lower the terrorist threat. However, these goals have not been attained to this day.

The civil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were provoked by foreign interference, which local people view as occupation. As a result, more and more innocent civilians are dying in terrorist attacks there and in other countries.

The growing threat of military conflicts has encouraged many countries to increase spending on the acquisition of modern weapons and training of their armed forces. The trend has spread worldwide, from Southeast Asia to Latin America.

Another factor spurring military expenditure is the growing prices of weapons and military equipment. This explains why military expenses are growing although the number of military systems each particular country has is decreasing. A modern fighter plane now costs $30-$100 million compared to $8-$10 million 25-30 years ago, even though the dollar has become considerably weaker.

The Untied States, although it spends over $600 billion on its armed forces, has to gradually cut the number of the main types of armaments, from aircraft carriers to armored personnel carriers. The same is true of other countries, including Russia.

The number of weapon systems is decreasing, but the world is not becoming a safer place.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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